Oberlin firefighters see increase in calls, save 96 percent of property

By Valerie Urbanik - vurbanik@civitasmedia.com

File photo An Oberlin firefighter checks a garbage can that caught on fire in Park Street Park last year.

Firefighters saved nearly 96 percent of endangered property during emergencies in 2015, according to the Oberlin fire department’s annual report, released to the News-Tribune by chief Bob Hanmer.

Roughly $3.25 million worth of property was at risk due to fires and crashes and only $134,730 was lost. Those numbers stem from 21 structure fires and 36 fire incidents.

In total, Oberlin’s 28 firefighters responded to 633 emergency calls in 2015, which was nine percent increase from the previous year. Roughly 537 of those calls where in Oberlin, 82 in New Russia Township, and 14 for mutual aid in Lorain County.

Despite the increase, Hanmer said it’s normal for the department to have around 600 calls a year but his crew did not have any “big” fires this past year — unlike in 2014, when the city’s refuse garage caught on fire in the middle of the night.

There were 18 occasions when emergency crews responded to two calls at the same time and seven times to three calls.

Sixty-three percent of the calls to which rescue crews reacted came from residential areas. Firefighters responded to calls within Oberlin in an average of five minutes and 36 seconds.

Each firefighter had an average of 80 hours of training in 2015 and the rescuers participated in a combined 2,233 hours.

Training is a top priority for Hanmer because he wants his team up-to-date on the newest information and always safe.

Every fire department in Lorain County has been participating in Blue Card Command training. “This Blue Card is for your everyday incident,” Hanmer said. “Your typical house fire. Your typical car crash. It just the smaller type of incidents.”

The county received a grant for every department to take the class and it’s typically held at the Oberlin station.

Hanmer said the training is focused on common terminology and he believes it’s working and helping departments work better together.

“It seems like our incidents are going a lot smoother now that everybody is on the same page, especially when we go out of town or out-of-town people come here because they know what we’re talking about,” he said. “It’s making a big impact on the entire county not just here.”

The rescuers also conducted 30 educational programs with nearly 640 people in attendance.

Firefighters conducted 244 regular fire inspections of businesses and multi-family occupancies and found 37 violations.

The department also underwent a major change in the middle of the year when former chief Dennis Kirin retired after more than 20 years of service to Oberlin. Hanmer was hired from a pool of more than 50 applicants to replace Kirin.

One of the big changes Hanmer made upon his hiring was to have at least one police officer respond to every fire call to protect emergency responders. That decision stemmed from an incident last fall involving three South Amherst firefighters who were held at gunpoint by a man who appeared to have mental health issues.

Hanmer’s also been focused on working closer with Oberlin College security and the Central Lorain County Ambulance District.

A new five-year strategic plan is still in the works for the upcoming years. The 2015 annual report said the plan is for improved personnel development, to boost internal and external communications, and address recruitment and retention policies.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.

File photo An Oberlin firefighter checks a garbage can that caught on fire in Park Street Park last year.


File photo An Oberlin firefighter checks a garbage can that caught on fire in Park Street Park last year.

By Valerie Urbanik