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AURORA -- For the fifth straight year, fire alarms and rescue calls received by the city's fire department increased, according to Fire Chief David Barnes' 2016 year-end report.
Fire alarms rose to 443 from 436 in 2015. Other figures in the last five years were 416 in 2014, 386 in 2013 and 369 in 2012.
Crews responded to 1,750 rescue calls in 2016, compared to 1,561 in 2015, 1,570 in 2014, 1,498 in 2013 and 1,472 in 2012.
That adds up to a total of 2,193 calls in 2016. Figures in the previous four years were 1,997 in 2015, 1,986 in 2014, 1,884 in 2013 and 1,841 in 2012.
According to Barnes, average response time was 5.02 minutes for fire calls and 3.46 minutes for emergency medical service calls.
Fire loss was quite low during the year -- at an estimated $77,792. Barnes said most of that was heavy damage to a classic car and smoke and heat damage to the garage it was housed in. The cause of the fire was determined to be arson, Barnes said.
The chief noted the city purchased a new rescue squad vehicle, which replaced a 2006 model, plus new self-contained breathing apparatus to replace 13-year-old equipment. Funding came from the fire/paramedics levy.
In addition to three rescue squads, the department has three fire engines, a ladder truck and five cars in its inventory.
During monthly training, firefighters/paramedics focused on airway management, basic life support, septic shock, trauma situations, use of new equipment, abdominal pain in elderly patients, heat illnesses, cold emergencies and arrhythmia in critically ill patients.
Firefighting topics included general building construction, explosions, haz-mat situations, water rescues, portable fire extinguishers, topes and knots used in firefighting, ground ladders and chimney fire tactics.
Lt. Matthew McBirney and firefighter Ed Grecol taught several fire extinguisher classes to 650 employees of local businesses, while firefighter Mike Overholt taught CPR to school students and various groups. He certified 594 people in Health Care Provider CPR and Heartsaver AED and another 133 in first aid.
Members of the force who are part of the Portage County water rescue team conducted ice diving drills in Mantua, vehicle recovery in Streetsboro, swift water exercises on the Cuyahoga River and dive pattern searches at Sandy Lake.
Members of the force who participate in the Portage County search and rescue team conducted high angle rescue, confined space, structural collapse and trench rescue drills in various locations.
A new fire safety inspector was added to the fire prevention staff, and that person initiated the Firepup program for Aurora students in grades pre-K to 4.
Fire safety talks also were presented at daycare centers, and the fire safety house was used for training of third-graders at Leighton School and Valley Christian Academy.
Fire extinguisher and CPR training were provided for many local businesses and all 10th-graders at Aurora High, with 524 people trained. Health Care Provider CPR training was given to 70 people, and 133 were trained in first aid, while firefighters installed more than 60 child safety seats in vehicles.
Thirty-four occupancy inspections were conducted, and total inspections increased by 215 in 2016.
Major construction projects monitored by firefighters during the year were at McMaster-Carr, VWR, the 1815 Tavern, Aurora Inn, Christ Community Chapel, Pyrotek and J.I.T. Packaging.
The Portage County Fire Investiation Unit, of which some AFD personnel are members, were called out to investigate 24 incidents, with two cases determined to be arson, including one on Greenview Drive in Aurora. Seven incidents were ruled as undetermined and the remaining 14 as accidental.
Since 2010, the number of cases investigated by the Portage County team has ranged from a low of 19 in 2010 to 31 in 2011.
Fire department personnel participate in many activities, including the July 4 festivities and fireworks, Memorial Day parade, Truck Night -- which was moved to Kiwanis-Moore Park in 2016 -- Vehicle Day at Miller School, the Chamber of Commerce's Community Showcase, Portage County None for Under 21, bicycle rodeo, Craddock School Family Fun Days, Easter egg hunts, health fairs, Halloween and family fall festival, fun runs and the Portage County Fair.
One high AHS senior learned about fire service jobs during the annual senior internship program, while several EMT students from Maplewood Career Center, University Hospitals EMS Training Institute and Cuyahoga Community College participated in the observer/ride-along program.
The main fire station was a dropoff site for the St. Pet's Day pet food drive sponsored by the Portage County Animal Protective League, and 95 units of blood were collected at a Red Cross bloodmobiles on Christmas Eve.