Jacksonville Fire Chief Sills talks increased responses in 2017

By Blake Schnitker on January 19 at 11:26am

The number of calls received by the Jacksonville Fire Department in 2017 was up rather significantly than in years past.

As we’re nearly three weeks into the New Year, local police and fire departments are releasing their 2017 response numbers. Earlier this week, WLDS/WEAI News reported on the 2017 data collected by the Jacksonville Police Department, and now we turn our attention to the local fire department.

Jacksonville Fire Chief Doug Sills joined WLDS’ AM Conversation Wednesday to discuss some of the trends he’s found in last year’s data. And he says responses for local firefighters doubled their figures from five years prior.

“Calls were very well up, our response was up about 35 percent and compared to 2012 we’ve actually doubled the responses we had in that year. I think we’ve pretty much transitioned into an all hazards response agency – hazardous materials, structure fires, vehicle accidents, rescue calls – and as those continue to increase, we have to continually evaluate how we deliver services. Right now, we’re training our personnel to the technician level, which is an advanced level of training to handle the things that we need to handle,” says Sills.

Sills says 2017 was rare in that there weren’t any large fires his crew responded to.

“We didn’t have any of those large fires. Usually we see one a year where we have a large structure fire where we have to call in the entire department to handle it. This (last) year we just saw an increase in the numbers. Several of the ones that we did respond to this last year that were memorable were when Reynolds had an incident, and we also assisted South Jacksonville with the Comfort Inn out there, they had a structure fire at the hotel. Those were the big life safety hazards and the large value property incidents that we responded to, but just little things here and there added up for the entire year,” Sills explains.

Looking ahead to the future of local fire response, Sills says he wouldn’t be surprised to see the number of calls continue to grow, and explains some of the other data his department is collecting.

“This last year I thought we had pretty much reached the maximum amount (of responses), but if you watch the numbers and track them it just continually increases. As those incidents increase, the thing that we are tracking is the number of multiple alarms, that’s up 500 percent, where we’re responding multiple apparatuses to simultaneous incidents. We’re always evaluating how we’re delivering the services we need to. There might come a point and time where we have to evaluate what level of response we’re going to deliver to what type of incident, so we’re continually evaluating how we’re going to deliver services,” Sills says.

To hear more from Chief Sills and the different ways the local department is staying up-to-date with modern equipment and technology, check out our full interview with him under the “Newscasts” tab.