Fires cause $750,000 in damage in Alexandria last year, chief tells councilFires caused more than $750,000 worth of damage in the Alexandria area last year. Local firefighters prevented nearly $1 million more from going up in smoke. The numbers were presented at Monday’s Alexandria City Council meeting by Fire Chief Jeff Karrow.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Fires caused more than $750,000 worth of damage in the Alexandria area last year.
Local firefighters prevented nearly $1 million more from going up in smoke.
The numbers were presented at Monday’s Alexandria City Council meeting by Fire Chief Jeff Karrow.
His annual report shows that the department responded to a total of 219 calls in 2012, the most in at least five years.
The 30 members of the all-volunteer department serve not only Alexandria but also the outlying townships of Alexandria, Carlos, Hudson, Holmes City, Ida, LaGrand and Lake Mary.
The department’s service area covers 135 square miles and a population of 21,032, according to the report.
The bulk of last year’s calls, 147, were within the city limits, followed by LaGrand Township with 22, Alexandria Township with 10 and the other townships with a combined total of 25, including mutual aid. Another 10 calls were non-emergencies handled by the chief without paging the whole department.
On average, 24 firefighters turned out per call. Their response time was about four minutes.
Building fires accounted for the most damage, $676,000 worth, followed by road freight or transport related, $38,500; passenger vehicles fires, $17,600; campers or recreational, $10,000; confined cooking fires, $5,000; fuel burner/boiler, $3,500; grass fires, $1,000; arcing or shorted electrical fires, $250; and used mobile homes, $200.
Karrow recalled a few of the more memorable calls last year, including providing mutual aid for a fire at Recycled Plastics in Garfield, responding to two residential fires within a couple of blocks of each other near Kenwood Street and freeing a driver from the wreckage of two semis that collided on Interstate 94.
Firefighters do more than respond to calls. They also do a lot of training. Ninety percent of the members attended fire school classes throughout the state. The department logged 3,600 accumulated hours in training.
A highlight of 2012 was hosting the 137th Minnesota State Fire Department Association Conference last June, Karrow noted. About 400 delegates and their spouses attended, "So it was a boost for the Alexandria area," he said.
Other highlights: The Alexandria Fire Department Explorers placed third at the Governor’s Fire Prevention Day at the Minnesota State Fair; and members attended the dedication of the Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial at the State Capitol in September.
Alexandria Fire Marshal Dennis Stark also presented his annual report. He had a busy year with a variety of activities – code enforcement (102 inspections, mostly new construction), investigations (15 incidents, mostly follow-up for fire officers after an incident or call), training, public relations and working with the media.
The fire department once again reached out to children in the area, helping with fire drills, poster contests and visiting classrooms, Stark said. He coordinated 35 station tours, 16 school visits and the safety escape house was used at all elementary schools, reaching about 750 students. A Safety Day Camp in May taught 470 5th graders about fire safety.
The council thanked Karrow and Stark for their reports. Later at the meeting, Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels echoed his support for the fire department, saying that the partnership between the departments was rock solid.
Wyffels said that whenever the firefighters are asked to help the police, such as locating a missing child, they jump right to it.
In other action, the council:
--Approved a multi-agency law enforcement joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. This will allow the Alexandria Police Department (APD) to become members of the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Police Chief Rick Wyffels said the APD may be asked to conduct forensic examinations of computers, cellular phones or other digital media for law enforcement agencies within the region. In return, the APD will receive an upper-end desktop computer valued at $3,000 to $3,500 for doing the investigations and some training valued at $2,000. The task force has a total expense budget of $320,000.
--Proclaimed March as White Ribbon Month in Alexandria. Organized by United Communities Advocating NonViolence (UCAN), the effort seeks to raise awareness about violence against women, sexual assault and domestic violence. Council members and city employees, particularly men, were encouraged to wear white ribbons and take the following pledge: “I pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and children.”
--Approved the following licenses: charitable gambling for St. Mary’s Church to conduct bingo and sell raffles at a September 14 event, Alexandria Youth Baseball Association to conduct bingo at the Broadway Ballroom on April 19, and Theatre L’Homme Dieu to sell raffles for a May 4 event at the Alexandria Golf Club; peddler’s for Doug’s Kettlekorn, located at the Ace Hardware parking lot; and heating contractor for Two Sons Heating, Cooling and Refrigeration.
--Approved a preliminary plat application for property at 3910 Dakota Street in the Eighth Addition to the Airport Industrial Park. This will create two conveyable parcels of land. Brent Smith, owner of the Aagard Group, applied for the subdivision application. The company is located next to the property, which is owned by Bruce Pohlig. A section of the property containing an old house and outbuildings will be split off. There are currently no plans to develop the land.
--Approved revisions to Alexandria streets that are part of the Municipal State Aid (MSA) system. The city gets about $760,000 annually in MSA funds, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven. The money is used for reconstructing state routes, local street overlays and matching federal and state aid.
--Called for bids for street overlay projects in the city. The city has about $270,000 budgeted for the improvements, which include Park Place, Oak Knoll Drive, Ridgewood Drive, Wood Duck Lane, Autumn Boulevard, Winter Green Lane, Bridgeport Court and Loch Mist Lane. Bids will be opened on March 28.
--Decided to keep the speed limit on Voyager Drive (once known as County Road 44) at 40 miles per hour. The highway committee considered a request to lower the limit to 30 mph but recommended against it. The speed limit was established by Douglas County based on a Minnesota Department of Transportation speed study.