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A few more fires in 2020, report finds

A few more fires in 2020, report finds

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There was a small increase in the number of fires last year, according to a report presented to the Scottsbluff City Council.

In all, the Scottsbluff Fire Department responded to 85 fires in 2020 compared to 78 fires in 2019. Most of the structure fires occurred in April and December.

The department, which services about 15,000 residents, also responded to more rescue and emergency calls in 2020. In the prior year, they responded to 1,591 rescue and emergency call. In 2020, they responded to 1,663, according to the report.

“This past year brought many challenges and opportunities to the Scottsbluff Fire Department,” Scottsbluff Fire Chief Tom Schingle said.

One such opportunity was the partnership with Western Nebraska Community College. Schingle said his department was able to utilize WNCC space to spread out his firefighters over the course of the pandemic.

“That worked out very well and it also showed us that future growth for the city of a second location in that general vicinity would be ideal,” he said.

Schingle said that one odd spot of data was the special incident calls.

“The biggest increase I think we had was with special incident types and the reason for that is we assisted law enforcement with fireworks enforcement,” he said.

In 2019, the Scottsbluff Fire Department responded to 11 special incidents. In 2020, that number spiked to 55.

Schingle also reported the department’s average response times to most calls were within five minutes.

“The Scottsbluff Fire Department strives to respond to all calls for service in less than five minutes,” Schingle said. “Last year, we were able to respond to the majority of calls for service within four minutes and fifty-nine seconds.”

The report said that overlapping incidents, incorrect locations, train delays and inclement weather can cause delays in response times.

Schingle also spoke about the Hubbard Gap fire and his department’s response to it. The August fire that burned some 4,000 acres in Banner County was a major highlight for the department, he said.

When asked by the council, Schingle said he was hoping he’d have an opportunity to replace the department’s fire engine in the upcoming years. While the current fire engine is less than 10 years old, Schingle said he wants to put the old engine in reserve.

“It’s in pretty good shape,” he said. “Right now, our plan would be to replace that engine to have a decent one in reserve, then the 26-year-old engine can go away.”

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