Arlington Fire Department Dealing with Growing Community

The Arlington Fire Department says it will likely have to ask for more resources to keep up with a growing call load and community. That was just one of the messages the agency delivered when it presented its annual report to the Arlington City Council Tuesday.

According to that report, there was a 3 percent increase in call volume in 2013 – the fourth straight year crews were responding to more calls. The team at Station 2, which is one of the busier fire stations in Arlington, can attest to that.

"We're out more than we are in [the station]," said David Humphreys, an Arlington firefighter/paramedic. "It's pretty steady. We keep increasing each year in the number of calls."

Fire Chief Don Crowson says as the city grows and new health care laws take effect, he expects the demand for their services to rise even higher.

"It looks like the future may mean for us some future requests for additional staff," said Crowson.

But he says if they want more resources from the city, they have to show city leaders how effective and efficient they can be.

At Station 2, they're doing that with the department's new Squad Car program. Rather than send a fire engine to minor EMS calls, they can send one of the Squad Cars, an SUV that is equipped with all the gear that first responders need.

"We reduce wear and tear and these half a million dollar [fire engines] and we extend the life of them because we're using a lightweight vehicle to make these calls," said Crowson.

He says it also allows them to keep engines at multiple stations free to respond to more serious calls.

"Last year, we ran almost 2,700 calls just on [the Squad Car]," said Humphreys.

Crowson says it's just one way they’re getting creative as they meet the needs of a growing community.

"We've got to see the future now and start positioning for it," said Crowson. "We're putting together a team to do just that, to forecast what the future holds for us and to build in efficiencies."

Despite these challenges, the annual report showcased some impressive numbers for the department. In 2013, firefighters were able to keep fires contained to the room where they started 45 percent of the time, which consequently led to an 11 percent decrease in total fire damage per capita.

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