North Chicago OKs new ambulance, additonal manpower
By Judy Masterson firstname.lastname@example.org | @JudyReport October 10, 2013 5:36PM
North Chicago Fire Chief Dell Urban
Fast facts about fire
• In 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to 370,000 home structure fires. These fires caused 13,910 civilian injuries, 2,520 civilian deaths, $6.9 billion in direct damage.
• On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day.
• Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment. Smoking is a leading cause of civilian home fire deaths.
• Most fatal fires kill one or two people. In 2011, 12 home fires killed five or more people resulting in a total of 67 deaths.
• U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 156,600 cooking-related fires between 2007-2011, resulting in 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 civilian injuries and $853 million in direct damage.
• Two of every five home fires start in the kitchen.
• Microwave ovens are one of the leading home products associated with scald-burn injuries not related to fires.
• Clothing was the item first ignited in less than one percent of home cooking fires, but these incidents accounted for 16 percent of the cooking fire deaths.
Source: National Fire Protection Association
Updated: November 12, 2013 6:13AM
It’s national Fire Prevention Week and the chief of the North Chicago Fire Department showed some shrewdness in arranging for the history of the week, observed since 1922, to be read at City Council before a vote on a list of department asks.
Dell Urban, the first full-time female career fire chief in Lake County, was formally appointed to the post in August 2012. After the council voted this week to unanimously approve requests, including a new ambulance and an increase in the department’s number of lieutenants from six to seven, she pronounced her job “fantastic” and pointed to the addition of manpower as one of the reasons.
When Urban, 44, took over the department which hired her in 1991 as its first female firefighter paramedic, her crew numbered 25. By next month, sworn officers will total 34.
“The first six months were tough,” Urban said. “There was a lot going on, the guys were asked to do a lot, and they pitched in. But once we get new promotions and two new hires on, we’ll be at staffing to do the job we need to do.”
Urban on Monday, Oct. 7, asked and received a reversal on a 2011 council decision to decrease by one the number of department lieutenants which, she said, caused an imbalance of command staff on work shifts.
“Now we’ll have a shift commander, lieutenant and nine paramedic/firefighters on each shift,” she said.
The increase in personnel came after the department, under Urban, landed $832,741 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to hire six trained “front-line” firefighters. The grant pays the first two years of salary for the new hires.
“That grant was a huge turning point,” Urban said. “It meant close to a $1 million burden our taxpayers don’t have to shoulder. It’s hard, fiscally, to manage any department. But with that kind of support, including other grants and donations, it makes it easier to purchase other items and save for the next thing around the corner.”
Urban is also psyched about the approval for the purchase of a new, $140,000 emergency truck, a replacement for one of the department’s three.
“The old one was a 2003 and it was proving very costly − out a lot for service,” Urban said.
The council also approved, at Urban’s request, a tentative intergovernmental agreement that will allow the department to bill for mutual aid ambulance calls.
The agreement, which must also be approved by participating departments in Gurnee; Waukegan; Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin; Winthrop Harbor; Zion and Newport and Beach Park fire protection districts, will allow for billing at the home community’s rate. In North Chicago, that’s $400 for basic first aid service and $900 for service calling for advanced life support.
Urban estimates the department responds to between 15 and 20 mutual aid calls per year. If units are called out but not used, no billing will occur.
“The agreement offers the potential for the city to recoup some money,” Urban said.
The North Chicago department, like others around the nation, steps up education efforts and distribution of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors during Fire Prevention Week.
“We do it throughout the year but we do make an extra push in October,” Urban said. “It’s been more than 90 years and both kids and adults are getting the message.”