WILMINGTON — Some people may be surprised to hear that in 2014 the Wilmington Fire Department (WFD) had more runs than it did when more than 9,000 people worked at the air park.
After thousands of people lost their Wilmington Air Park-based jobs with the departure of DHL, there was a “slight decrease” in the volume of calls for service made to the WFD and its life squad, said Wilmington Fire Chief Andy Mason.
Since that decrease, however, the calls have come back and passed the numbers of runs WFD saw during the zenith of employment when Wilmington served as an air freight superhub.
As part of the 175th anniversary of WFD, Mason sat down with the News Journal to talk about the department as it is presently, in addition to the historical articles published in recent weeks.
Average runs per day last year registered 9.8, according to numbers from the WFD. Total calls last year added up to 3,587. Of those, 3,083 were EMS (emergency medical services) calls and 504 were fire calls.
And that doesn’t include 167 mutual aid calls.
Mason, Assistant Chief Mark Wiswell and 14 other firefighters provide the fire and EMS coverage.
A key service WFD performs is fire inspections. The inspections are held at existing businesses and public buildings, as well as at new construction projects. In 2014, WFD staff completed about 400 fire inspections and re-inspections, according to Mason.
The structures inspected include school buildings including the Christian school, Wilmington College, day cares, public schools, along with churches, city-owned buildings, the Murphy Theatre and businesses.
“We really try to do yearly inspections of everything we can in our coverage area,” Mason said.
Smoke detectors, fire alarms, emergency lighting and the safety of exits are among the things checked.
Sometimes exits get blocked or closed off, the chief said.
Storage materials in front of electric panels or under stairways are examples of the type of things that would need to be corrected within a certain time period, he said. It’s not unheard of for items to get moved to a spot inside a building “for the time being,” and then end up staying there, he noted.
The more dangerous the situation, the shorter the time line to fix it, said Mason.
He is pleased to report the local business community works well with WFD on the inspections, even though the visits could be viewed as an intrusion.
“They need us, and we need them,” the chief said of the local businesses.
Wiswell conducts most of the fire inspections, but several members of the WFD crew are certified to do them and often are the ones who go back to a place for the follow-up to see whether corrections have been made.
“The guys like getting out to these different places,” said Mason, explaining the visits allow firefighters to become more familiar with the structures which may prove helpful if a fire does occur there.
A roof project on the downtown fire station was completed this year. Plans to repair an -in-house vehicle exhaust system are on-hold due to budget considerations.
The system contains hoses that come down and attach to exhaust pipes when vehicles are running in the building, and takes the fumes out of the building. The department received a federal grant a number of years ago that paid for most of the installation costs, but system upkeep now is needed, Mason said.
In addition to the city of Wilmington, WFD’s service area includes Union Township, Washington Township and Adams East.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.