2023 another record year of 911 calls, as DeKalb Fire Department eyes new station

DeKalb fire chief gives annual report to City Council highlighting 2023 data and trends

DeKalb firefighter/paramedic Pat Eriksen talks Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the DeKalb Fire Department Fire House No. 1, about the gear the truck he drives carries on board.

DeKALB – More people in 2023 called 911 for the DeKalb Fire Department than ever before, according to data released this week that shows another record of calls for service amid rumblings of a new fire station.

With 7,684 emergency calls in 2023, the department outpaced the prior year, which yielded 7,437 emergency calls, according to the agency’s annual report.

DeKalb Fire Chief Mike Thomas delivered the annual report to the DeKalb City Council this week highlighting 2023 data and trends.

“As you can tell, our call volume seems to be trending upward,” Thomas said. “It is continuing this year. We’re still at a record pace.”

One of the rooms the on duty firefighters can use to sleep in at the DeKalb Fire Department Fire House No. 1.

As has been the trend for years, the majority of emergency calls that go to DeKalb agencies are for residents requesting medical care, data shows. In 2023, 82% of 911 calls were for medical emergencies in DeKalb.

Thomas said it’s clear that the fire department remains busy.

Data shows that 63% of all fires occurred in residential homes.

Thomas said that really is the “lion share” of the agency’s work.

It’s also reported that the fire department responded to 173 fire incidents in 2023, down from 181 the year prior.

In 2023, the agency dealt with 2,111 simultaneous calls for service to incidents, according to the report.

Thomas pointed to how most emergency service calls, including simultaneous calls for service, originate in the heavier, more populated areas in town.

DeKalb Fire Chief Mike Thomas gives remarks Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 during a dedication ceremony for fire engine No. 2 held at fire station No. 2.

Reiterating remarks he’s emphasized before, Thomas said a fourth fire station for the city would be important to help address the influx of calls.

Also at the meeting, the City Council voted to award a $3,680,000 contract to Irving Construction Company for the construction of the fourth fire station at 1130 S. Malta Road, DeKalb.

At the same time, Thomas said hiring remains a challenge for the fire department moving forward.

He maintains that the agency is committed to finding the best candidates to assume the job.

The makeup of the agency has seen its share of changes over the past year, with the retirement of Lt. Chris Ziola and four new hires, city documents show.

But Thomas said the fire department is close to filling out its roster.

“We are still working to get our roster to full strength,” Thomas said. “But recruitment has become a real challenge in our business. So we continue to move toward that goal of becoming fully rostered and we’ll get there.”

The report shows that members of the fire department logged 23,288 training hours.

Thomas emphasized that this is a high priority and a requirement of the agency’s members.

“We try to keep busy and practice like we work,” Thomas said.

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