75 percent of fire alarms were for medical reasons

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Greer Fire Chief Chris Harvey told city council Tuesday night that his department responded to 3,340 alarms with 2,517 for medical reasons. Harvey and his staff presented the 2011 Fire Department report to council.

The report showed the department's annual cost continues its 3-year decline with 2011 reporting at $2.3 million, a $200,00 decrease from 2010. The cost per city resident last year was $93.36. The daily cost is reportedly $6,525.

The Greer FD has 34 full-time firefighters and 15 volunteers.

The number of medical calls was at issue last month when council gave Harvey approval to file for a SAFER grant (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants). That would allow the department to hire up to four firefighters with no cost to the city for the first two-years of the four-year grant.

Councilman Lee Dumas (District 4) did not vote for the grant suggesting the bulk of medical calls could be shifted to other city agencies to respond.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds the SAFER grant at $200,000 a year. At the end of two years (2014) the city can pick up the costs and absorb the firefighters onto its staff or can option out of the grant by eliminating one or all four of the firefighters.

The city would not have to make a decision on participating in the program until the grant request is approved, most likely in the spring.

The average response time, according to Harvey’s report was 4 minutes and 48 seconds. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that fire departments average 4 minutes for travel time between the fire station and the scene of a fire or medical emergency.

"Fire permits are increasing after a two-year decline," Harvey said. The 28 permits issued last year accounted for $3.3 million in revenue compared to 25 permits in 2010 for $2.6 million and 31 in 2009 for $4.7 million.  The four-year high was 84 permits issued in 2008 that generated $11.6 million.

Inspections were performed on 423 car seats with 99 percent having something wrong with the installation. "We have an opportunity to interact with the public at that time,” Harvey said. “We ask them 'What about fire safety in your home?'"

The most serious fire last year was a lightning strike at Regency Apartments. There was no fire and the damage was mostly water damage caused by the thunderstorms that evening, Harvey said. There were no injuries.

A significant statistic Harvey reported was the decline in fire violations by 72 percent in the past four years. There were 455 violations in 2011 compared to a high in 2008 at 1,631 and falling to 844 in 2009 and 593 in 2010.

The size Greer FD has maintained 29 square miles of jurisdiction since 2009 with its three stations, including sharing Batesville-Pelham, averaging 8 miles each.

The fire department began receiving government grants in 2003 with five received for over $428,000. Council, earlier this year, approved Harvey to seek a grant that would compensate Greer for two additional firefighters at no cost for the first two years. Subsequent years in the 4-year grant would have Greer deciding if it could incorporate the fighters into its budget.

Council members Jay Arrowood (District 1), who served as a volunteer fighter, and Wryley Bettis (District 5) commended the fire fighters.

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Ed Driggers

Businesses mentioned in this article.

City of Greer


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