Fire calls within Ottawa in 2022 were down by 36 from last year, according to Fire Chief Brian Bressner.
The Ottawa Fire Department responded to 4,121 calls in 2022. While the number of calls were down, Bressner said 2022 was a difficult year for the Ottawa Fire Department.
The fire chief said there were three residential fire deaths, a number the department always wants to be at zero.
Bressner said the department estimated about $1.6 million in fire damage, between structures, vehicle and items lost to fires.
“Our fire calls were down a little bit but we saw an increase in our fire loss this year compared to previous years,” Bressner said. “That is a big loss but a lot of it was because we had more residential fires. We see a big fire loss when it’s a commercial building, comparatively, but a lot of the fires were residential.”
He said there also was a rise in calls that require responses. Not every call requires an engine or a medic but many calls the department has responded to this year have needed them, and medical calls were up from 2021. The calls in 2022, Bressner said, have been more serious.
While the department is operating short-staffed leading to overtime hours, those days could be coming to an end within the next year: Bressner said he has 27 staff members, which is the minimum required. Up until recently, the fire department had as few as 21.
“We’re up to 27 and now we have to get them trained,” Bressner said. “That’s our key factor. We had to drop from paramedic down to EMT basic for new hires, but we did end up getting them in. We have five in the paramedic class right now at (Illinois Valley Community College) and that will take up to a year. So, we’re up to the staffing level, but they’re not considered staffing level at this point until they’re trained.”
Bressner said the top advice he has to avoid fires is to have smoke detectors in the home, and the department is planning CPR classes soon to help with public education.
“We just started a new program with the American Red Cross to get smoke detectors out there, so if you don’t have a smoke detector in your house, please call the fire station,” Bressner said. “We get those set up and actually install them in your house for you.”
The Ottawa Fire Department’s non-emergency line is 815-434-3785.