New Albany Fire Department reacts to unusual number, variety of calls over Thanksgiving

November 28th, 2020     Featured Government & Politics

A lot of folks are getting a four-day weekend because of the Thanksgiving holiday but that hasn’t been the case for the New Albany Fire Department.

Chief Mark Whiteside said they responded to 14 calls from Wednesday evening through Saturday afternoon (in fact, they had one more as this was being written). Although the number of calls varies from day to day, that’s much higher than usual.

“Three or four days last week we didn’t have any but this week we are making up for it,” Whiteside said.

The calls included medical assists, lift assists, a kitchen fire, two electrical fires, motor vehicle accidents and others.

While some were routine, others were not. One was a vehicle accident.

“A guy ran up on a guy wire and it got stuck between the cab and truck,” he said. “The light, gas and water department had to come out and cut the wire before we could move it.”

A kitchen fire on Oak Street about 5 a.m. Thanksgiving resulted in some vent hood and minor smoke damage. A small grass fire was reported behind Pilot Truck Stop.

The department responded to the Union County Jail twice, Friday and Saturday.

Apparently one of the prisoners had stuck something in an electrical outlet causing arcing. “It was in Pod One in an outlet by a TV on the wall,” he said. “Things like this (at the jail) are pretty common but they are more trouble than damage.” The same outlet was involved Saturday. “It caused very, very little smoke,” he said, and the smoke was quickly cleared without the need for oxygen masks or other measures.

“Fortunately, it’s a jail. There’s not a lot of flammable material so it’s more of a nuisance than anything,” he said.

Whiteside said they have had some carbon monoxide detectors going off lately and, with some of the coldest temperatures of the season expected in the next few days, he urged everyone to have their furnaces and heaters serviced. “Remember to keep space heaters at least three feet away from curtains (or other materials) and do not use any type of extension cord with a space heater,” he said. He added one should not use stoves or ovens as heating sources.

If you did not replace batteries or test smoke detectors when Daylight Saving Time ended, now is the time to do it, he said.

This past week may be an indication that the number of incidents is creeping back up.

“Our call volume was down just a little with corona, we were screening medical more, but now we’re back on track to match last year’s,” Whiteside said.

The fire department responds to quite a few calls that turn out to not need them and are cancelled, but they don’t mind.

“Luckily, all these auto accidents we went to, the people were not really entrapped, they were able to get out before we got there,” he said. “But if they cannot confirm that people are out of the vehicle they automatically call us.”

“We like it that way. Better be safe than sorry,” he added.

Leaving on a call only to be turned around before getting there is the price you pay, he said. “We’d rather drive six miles and turn around rather than wait and then see that we are needed.”

The city fire department is able to get to scenes quickly, even if they are not necessarily close, according to Whiteside.

“For our city ratings we are well under the required amount of response time,” he said. “Our guys are very, very quick to get the trucks en route. They don’t waste any time.”

“I’m very satisfied with the en route and response time we have,” he said. “Of course, we’re always looking for ways to get better.”

“A lot of times Mark (deputy chief Mark Sides) and I beat trucks to scene,” he said, and this provides a good initial assessment of the situation for everyone along with what action is needed.

“Things are going good, running well,” he said. “I can’t be more pleased with the staff.”

“We’re not exempt from COVID,” he acknowledged. “We had a very small incident, but we haven’t had to shut down or cancel a shift. We kind of isolate.” Other city and county departments have had to restrict access or temporarily close completely.

He emphasized people should not hesitate to call if they have any type of fire emergency.

“We’re just a phone call away,” he said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”


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