By: Jordan Mueller
The city of St. Johns had 45 fires in 2012, a number that has been on the rise since 2010, according the 2012 St. Johns Public Safety Annual Report.
Along with the increase in fires comes a drastic increase in monetary losses for the community. In 2012, fire damages alone caused monetary losses of $146,000 for the city, a number up from just $36,250 the prior year.
Firefighter, Jordan Whitford, said that the long winter months play a role in that rising number.
“We had a long winter,” said Whitford. “We had a lot of chimney fires around, especially when people start cranking up their chimneys in the wintertime.”
The St. Johns Fire Department is making efforts to raise awareness of fire safety in the community in order to combat the increasing numbers.
Fire Chief, Dean Mazzolini, said the department made several changes in order to increase awareness and promote prevention methods.
“We hired on two firefighters to bring us to full strength at 20 firefighters,” said Mazzolini. “As a volunteer department, being at full strength will only help the community. If you’re not at full strength and some guys happen to be out of town, you might not be able to do your best job on a call.”
Mazzolini said although he is making the necessary changes within the department, it is also important to reach out to the community and raise their awareness.
The St. Johns Fire Department implemented a fire prevention program for citywide elementary schools in order to teach fire safety and prevention at a young age.
“We chose this age group because they are starting to learn and will imitate what you say and do,” said Mazzolini. “They get the gist of what we say and bring it home to their families.”
Gateway North Elementary School is one of the schools who hosted the firefighters. Gateway North Principal, Laska Creagh, said the fire department’s presentation was a unique experience that left an impression on the students.
“It’s a great experience and the event culminated with a ride around town on a fire truck,” said Creagh.
Kelly Dean, a third-grade teacher at Gateway North, said the students seemed to retain a lot of information and that they really enjoyed the fire department’s presentation.
“It’s an experience that the kids will never get again,” said Dean. “By allowing them to ride on the truck, it gives the kids something tangible to hold on to, which helps them retain the information and bring it home to their families.”