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Dickinson fire chief talks wildland fire training, fire prevention, more

Dickinson Police Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell details a monthly report regarding the increased number of calls for service to the Dickinson City Commission. Presnell also speaks on how the Dickinson Fire Department is finding ways to avoid burnout with the elevated fire conditions the region is experiencing.

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Two Dickinson Fire Department personnel monitor the flames of a fire burning on a property off of 40th Street Southwest and 116th Avenue Southwest April 3, 2021. In April, the Dickinson Fire Department responded to 62 calls for service, putting the department at a 34% increase from 2020. With the drought conditions projected to continue, Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell said he foresees wildland and grass fires increasing. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

In April, southwestern North Dakota experienced a variety of flames from wildland to structural fires that exhausted fire departments’ resources. But the fire season also forged a line of firefighters that were willing to help out neighboring departments during those intense times, including the Dickinson Fire Department.

As a way to gear up and combat more wildland/grass fires, the Dickinson Fire Department stepped up its training to 886 hours in April, compared to 600 hours in March . This training focuses on teaching firefighters the right tactics, safety skills and how to read and interpret weather conditions during those intense situations, Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell said, adding, that the department certified 12 new instructors to help with the increased amount of training.

“To help combat burnout, we have minimized some of our non-essential duties to help get our team some needed rest. We have rescheduled hands-on training and replaced it with more classroom based or online training,” Presnell said.

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Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell is getting the Dickinson Fire Department geared up to tackle future wildland/grass fires with 886 hours of training in April. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

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Presnell provided a monthly report to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, May 4, at City Hall, detailing the Dickinson Fire Department’s 62 calls for service in April, marking it at a 34% increase from 2020. For year-to-date calls, the Dickinson Fire Department has responded to 264 calls.

In April, the Dickinson Fire Department responded to one hazardous condition, four false alarms/false calls, nine fires, 11 service calls, 16 good intent calls and 19 emergency medical service incidents.

The nature of emergency medical service calls are either critical incidents or lift-assist types of calls. Sometimes those calls do require more staff on the scene, Presnell said, explaining that if fire personnel have to perform CPR on the scene with individuals who are unconscious or not breathing, it requires more hands on deck as well as lending a hand to the ambulance crew with getting those individuals on a gurney and out of the house.

“We saw some significant increases in our good intent calls, and the reason for that is a lot of the controlled burning or unauthorized burning or fire pits get called in under that. So we were responding to a lot of neighbors calling in their neighbors for burning during the burn ban… We’re running around chasing a lot of backyard bonfires and it just took a little education in those times that we were under a burn ban," he noted.

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Station 2 of the Dickinson Fire Department (pictured above in the City of Dickinson Public Safety Center) responds to calls for service from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. In April 2021, Station 2 decreased its response time to 7 minutes compared to March's response time of 7 minutes and 30 seconds. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Station 1, which is staffed 24/7, responded to 71% of the calls, compared to 29% at Station 2 — which is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the City of Dickinson Public Safety Center. Response times for each station were: 6 minutes, 28 seconds for Station 1 and 7 minutes for Station 2.

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Station 1 of the Dickinson Fire Department (pictured above) responds to a majority of the calls for service, being that the station is staffed 24/7 with fire personnel. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

In order to curb the large number of grass fires the Dickinson Fire Department responds to, education is crucial, Presnell continued. One of the fires in April was sourced back to an individual burning weeds and with the drought conditions, it caused the fire to get out of control. Three other incidents last month stemmed from children playing with matches. Presnell is hoping to avoid those situations with classroom presentations as well as community outreach.

“Our goals for the month of May are to continue to ensure our firefighters have the tools and resources they need to respond to the increased call volume we are experiencing due to the elevated fire conditions,” Presnell said. “With the current drought conditions, I foresee the number of wildland/grass fires continuing to increase.”

As the southwestern North Dakota region continues to fight fires, Presnell encourages the Dickinson community to stay up to date with fire ratings and restrictions by following the Dickinson Fire Department Facebook page.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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