To the firehouse: Robbinsdale Council reviews fire stats in work session

The Robbinsdale City Council poses in front of the fire station with Chief Guy Dorholt, bottom right, and other members of the department.

By Laci Gagliano
Sun Post Newspapers

Robbinsdale Fire Chief Guy Dorholt gave members of the Robbinsdale City Council a tour of the fire station and presented 2016 statistics for the department at a May 10 work session.

Dorholt and several members of the department discussed updates to fire marshal construction oversight, department logistics, potential municipal programs and certifications, and future equipment needs with the council, including opening a discussion of potential budget projections throughout the next two years. The 2016 data provided the council a breakdown of the types of responses the department typically handles, including trends in comparison to previous years.

The department’s budget for 2016 comprised 7.8 percent of the city’s overall budget. Robbinsdale uses a paid-on-call model for its firefighters, employing 28 on-call, paid members of the department, who last year who took part in 3,712 hours of training for the job. Two additional firefighters have been recruited for 2017, who attended probationary training at the North Suburban Fire Academy, becoming state certified in several levels of operation.

Dorholt said the department plans to enhance its training and education platform, as well as refine the recruitment strategy. In December, the department implemented a “Training and Education Roadmap” program, which opens promotion opportunities and helps direct firefighter education. Additionally, he said the department maximizes its use of state-funded training opportunities.

Robbinsdale Fire Chief Guy Dorholt discusses the department’s fire engine number 9 with the council. (Sun Post staff photos by Laci Gagliano)

“We are fully taking advantage of our ability to be reimbursed by the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Education … we work explicitly and very succinctly with our probationary firefighters the first year. It’s a little bit more rigid from our perspective because we operate as a department whose individuals who are required to know every aspect of the firefighting service,” Dorholt said.

The training received in 2016 included 78 hours per firefighter of Monday night drills, as well as 450 collective hours of continuing education.

Firefighters are continually trained in apparatus driving and pumping, with a three-year rotating skills renewal schedule that maintains a minimum amount proficiency level among all members of the apparatus operation.

The council was shown a breakdown of additional outside education that various firefighters received, including classes in reading smoke, vehicle stabilization, fire code review, leadership, water and ice rescue, and several other specializations, which enables the department to provide specialized services through those specially trained members.

The department received 315 calls in 2016, a slight decrease from 2015 and part of a downward trend of calls over a five-year period.

The most predominant types of calls included false alarms, which totaled 95 calls or 30 percent of the total calls, and responses to hazardous conditions like carbon monoxide, spills, downed power lines, and vehicle crashes, of which there were 75, or 24 percent of the calls. Only 15 percent of calls were related to fires. Other responses include good intent calls such as a cat stuck in a tree or water in a basement, service calls, severe weather calls and rescue/EMS calls.

Six percent of the total number of calls were devoted to rescue and EMS response, which includes medical emergencies. In Robbinsdale, the fire department does not attend to those calls.

“We’re pretty fortunate here. We actually have our police take care of our rescue calls,” Dorholt said. “If we did have to tend to (them), especially during the day, we would have to work out a program to take care of that.”

The council also toured the fire station bay, where Dorholt described various features, functions, and operations of the department’s main fire vehicles.

There will be an open house 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12 at the Robbinsdale Public Safety Building, with the opportunity to meet with fire and police department officials.

Contact Laci Gagliano at [email protected]