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SBFD - Dedicated to Making a Real Difference in South Burlington

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Thursday September 12, 2013

Prior to 1970, the City of South Burlington didn’t even have a fire department and now, the City is home to the second busiest department in the state! Tuesday, September 3, the City Council meeting was ‘on the road’ again, this time hosted by the South Burlington Fire Department, at Station #1 on Dorset Street. Councilors and members of the public had the opportunity to hear and see the hard work of this dedicated team through a tour, a presentation, and even in action, as firefighters left the meeting numerous times to attend to emergencies. 

A South Burlington resident, SBFD Fire Chief Douglas Brent is the longest serving career Fire Chief in Vermont. He began his career on April 1, 1974, and has served in Vermont for a total of twenty-seven years. He has been Fire Chief in South Burlington for eleven years. 

Chief Brent began his presentation by proudly highlighting the dedication of the SBFD employees. Brent said he feels “blessed” to have employees who “aren’t happy just wanting to make a difference, they want to make a real difference.” In addition to the Chief, the department includes a Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal, a full-time billing clerk/secretary, 3 Captains, 3 Lieutenants, and 22 dual role Firefighter/EMT,EMT-A Paramedics, who work in three day shifts. 

During Brent’s time in South Burlington he has overseen numerous changes including the implementation of City wide emergency communications, the addition of ambulance service, the Fire Station expansion, major equipment purchases (2 pumpers, 1 ladder truck, 1 rescue truck, and 3 ambulances) and successful grant opportunities. Since 2002, they have received $2.4 million in grant funding to support vehicles, staffing, special ops training, specialized rescue, and exhaust extraction. “Many of these items would not have been possible without grant funding” Brent said. 

The results of SBFD’s targeted efforts at fire mitigation may even have a positive effect on resident’s wallets. According to Chief Brent, “insurance companies use Public Protection Classification for marketing, underwriting, and to help determine fair insurance premiums for homeowners and commercial fire insurance. In general, the price of fire insurance in a community with a good Public Protection Classification is substantially lower than in a community with a poor Public Protection Classification.” South Burlington’s PPC rating has benefitted from an improvement in moving from a class 4/9 to a class 3/9. (In Vermont, ISO-Insurance Services Office  evaluates 271 communities of which only 3 have achieved class 3 - South Burlington and two other towns). This excellent rating could equate to real savings and potential refunds to businesses and homeowners on their fire insurance policies.

South Burlington’s Fire Department has seen a steady increase in demand for emergency services each year since its inception.  The latest statistics tally a total of over 3,000 combined fire related and medical emergency responses in the past year.  

Given that the South Burlington Fire Department is the second busiest in the state, second only to Burlington; Chair Pam Mackenzie asked if there was a correlation between South Burlington’s aging population and call volume. Brent believes so. The state wide average for individuals over 65 is 14.6% and South Burlington’s is 16.1%. 

Brent addressed a question that is frequently asked: why does the fire truck come along with the ambulance? The answer is safety. Since Emergency Medical Service (EMS) work is very labor intensive it can often be completed more efficiently when multiple responders are present. This also gives the option of sending extra help on the ambulance. South Burlington has designed its response system such that they have personnel on scene in 4 minutes or less, ambulance or not!

In an ongoing effort to connect with the community, the fire department conducts numerous outreach efforts. Every October, children in grades K-5 take part in a fire prevention program. A coloring contest is sponsored for children in grades K-3 and a spaghetti dinner is hosted at the station for the winners and their parents. The department also conducts a program for high school seniors prior to prom time regarding the dangers of drinking and driving. Another opportunity to connect with residents is provided during Fire Prevention Day in the fall. This year the event will be held Saturday October  5, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Station #1 on Dorset Street. Mark your calendar to visit the firehouse, view the extensive array of equipment, and meet the fine people who are dedicated to serving your community.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent

Corey BurdickCorrespondent