About two-thirds of those calls (1,192) were for EMS runs. Firefighters responded to 139 public-service calls. The 2017 numbers for vehicle accidents/rescue and hazardous situations were nearly identical — 117 and 116, respectively.
“In addition to emergency calls, our firefighters are responsible for occupancy inspections, vehicle maintenance, training, public safety education, hose, pump and hydrant testing, among other duties. We are fortunate to have dedicated firefighters who take pride in all aspects of their job,” Chief John Soisson said in the annual report.
Firefighters logged more than 4,200 hours of training in 2017. The crew was educated on emergency calls, including fires, EMS, hazardous materials, extrication, industrial accidents, water rescues, farm accidents, confined space and high-angle rope rescues.
Firefighter Chris Dowdell led the fire education program by educating more than 1,300 students enrolled in the Norwalk public and parochial schools during Fire Prevention Week in October.
“The program reiterated the importance of having working smoke detectors and checking both the date and batteries,” Soisson said.
Fire Prevention Week also showed the students fun ways to remember how to exit a burning building by using the smoke house, the importance of an emergency escape plan and how to stop, drop and roll.
In addition to their daily duties, members of the Norwalk Firefighters Local 1199 were involved in many community service projects. In mid-December, six Maplehurst Elementary students received new winter coats through Operation Warm.
To help lessen the burden on the city’s general fund, the fire department applies for a variety of grants for safety equipment.
“We have been fortunate to have received over a quarter-of-a-million dollars in grants over the past five years,” Soisson said. “Many hours are spent applying (for), securing and documenting the grants.”
The Assistance to Firefighters (FEMA), Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC), Ohio Department of EMS, Norwalk Elks and Norwalk Kiwanis are the sources of those grants. The fire department has used grant money for training and to purchase the following items: New air packs, heart monitors, water-rescue suits, fire hoses, nozzles, Knox Boxes for elderly citizens, medical equipment and fire-prevention materials.
This year it was announced the department will receive $8,657.50 through a BWC grant to purchase one 30-pound capacity extractor/washer with a base, 18 pairs of washable gloves and 18 barrier hoods. The funding is under the BWC Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements grant program, which provides $2 million a year to help fire departments purchase safety gear and equipment designed to protect firefighters from carcinogens and other harmful elements encountered during a fire fight.
Lt. Jamie Starcher retired May 3 after more than 23 years of service to the city of Norwalk. He was hired in February 1994. Firefighters remember him as a great role model and a “go-getter” who focused on training, professionalism, commitment and giving back to the community.
In other 2017 personnel news, Charlie Hillman earned a promotion to lieutenant in May and Logan Shullick was sworn in as a full-time firefighter.