Firefighters set new record in busy 2016

By Jason Hawk -



Eleven structure fires caused $528,500 in damages and four injuries in 2016.

They were among a record-setting 612 call-outs last year for Amherst firefighters, as detailed in an annual report from fire chief Greg Knoll to safety-service director John Jeffreys.

No one issue — such as heroin overdoses, arson, or storm damage — drove numbers sky-high. “There’s really no rhyme or reason” to the year’s numbers, Knoll said.

Instead, he said dispatches rose dramatically across the board, jumping nearly 20 percent over the 2015 volume of 509 call-outs.

“The city’s not getting any smaller. It’s a busy place,” he said.

First responder calls for medical support topped the list for Amherst firefighters last year. They went on 198 of those calls.

There were also 103 motor vehicle crashes, 37 smoke and odor reports, 36 electrical issues, and 15 gas leaks. Throw another 66 false alarms into the mix.

Other call types included vehicle fires, open burning complaints, hazardous materials incidents, carbon monoxide threats, grass and brush fires, trash issues, and a bomb threat.

The calls haven’t slowed in the new year. As of Jan. 11, there had been 17 tone-outs for firefighters.

Knoll’s annual report also highlighted accomplishments, including the purchase of new high-tech breathing masks and tanks, the cost of which was almost entirely covered by a federal grant.

In 2016, the department also placed an order for a new rescue truck, which will be delivered in September. Fire personnel painted about 200 fire hydrants and got upgrades to the fire station’s laundry room and surveillance cameras, as well as computers used by inspectors to test hydrants. The department also bought two new thermal imagers — special cameras that see heat.

This year, Knoll hopes to remodel the front and upstairs of the Church Street fire station and replace the AFD’s command vehicle. He’s also looking to hire four people to replace those who have retired.

And this spring, Amherst will ask its property owners to renew a one-mill levy to support fire operations. It generates nearly $300,000 per year.

The levy has been extremely popular in past votes. In November 2012, it was renewed by a two-to-one margin.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.


By Jason Hawk