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County fire dept. experiences year of positive growth
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Though Newton County Fire Service responded to 200 more calls in 2007 than it did in 2006, the majority of the department's calls were for emergency medical services.

Fire Service answered 5,106 emergency calls last year, according to the end of year report presented by Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield to the Newton County Board of Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday night.

According to the report, 56 percent or 2,866 of last year's emergency calls were for emergency medical help.

Satterfield told the board his department responded to the high level of emergency medical service calls by training as many of its firefighters as possible as emergency medical technicians.

In its first sponsored EMT class, fire services saw 23 of its firefighters certified last fall.

 Satterfield said the department has added an EMT certification requirement to its requirements for promotion within fire services. The BOC also approved a small pay incentive for firefighters who become EMTs.

The county's fire department has six full-time fire stations which are operated 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Fire stations No. 1, located on the Bypass, No. 9, located on Mount Zion Road and No. 14, located on Ga. Highway 212, responded to the highest number of calls in the year. Those stations are all located in heavily developed parts of the county. Fire station No. 1, which serves as headquarters for Fire Services, responded to the most calls of any station: 1,412.

Satterfield said department response times had decreased slightly overall compared to figures from 2006, though he said average response times for 2007 were not yet available.

"Our overall response time varies greatly," Satterfield said.

Satterfield said response times will continue to decrease once the seventh full-time fire station on Brown Bridge Road goes online later this year.

In 2007, there were only 186 structure fire calls, 302 tree/brush/grass fires and 199 unauthorized burning calls. Fire Services responded to on average 14 calls a day.

The department saw zero fatalities in 2007 though there has already been one fatality this year, an elderly man who died in a house fire on Elks Club Road in February.

Satterfield said the department experienced a marked increase in vehicle fires last year, 144. Satterfield attributed the increase to car thieves stealing cars from outside of the county and then burning them inside the county's borders.

Satterfield said a new method of categorizing the level of response to small or non-resource demanding calls allowed the department to increase the number of units sent out to structure fires or other potentially high resource demanding calls. Satterfield said this switch also allowed the department to reduce costs.

Other highlights from Fire Service's 2007 report:

Last year eight arrests were made for arson with five convictions and three cases pending.

The department's firefighters now average more than 20 hours of in-service training each month for a total of 9,106 training hours in 2007.

In 2007, Fire Services gave 303 fire safety lectures to various civic organizations, businesses and school groups. In October, 4,719 school children were given lessons in fire safety during the department's first Fire Safety Blitz.

A supply building, constructed by firefighters, was completed at the end of the year. Construction took 14 weeks. Satterfield said having the building has improved the acquisition and disbursement of needed supplies and equipment.