Brainerd fire board talks 2016 year in review

While 2016 may have been notable for many, the people who literally put out fires had both good and bad things to consider when reflecting on the year.

Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes
Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes addresses a meeting of the Fire Advisory Board Monday. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch
Zach Kayser / Brainerd Dispatch

While 2016 may have been notable for many, the people who literally put out fires had both good and bad things to consider when reflecting on the year.

The Brainerd Fire Department's Fire Advisory Board discussed Monday how the year turned out, as well as concerns about the aging fleet of fire trucks. Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes and city of Brainerd Finance Director Connie Hillman presented to the board, which is made up of representatives from the cities and townships that pay the department for fire service.

Of the department's 459 emergency responses in 2016, a total of 241 were either false alarms from building security systems or human error. Fires made up 83 calls (41 of which were in Brainerd), rescue and Emergency Medical Service, 62, and hazardous condition calls, 24.

The budget actually went down for 2017 relative to 2016, mostly due to the fact the department no longer needs to pay unemployment benefits to the former full-time firefighters that separated when the department switched to entirely paid on-call for its rank-and-file firefighters. The lack of unemployment payments meant a $83,200 savings for the department.

Overall, the budget decreased a net $35,454, from $918,687 in 2016 to $883,233 in 2017.


One of the few full-time positions, that of fire marshal/deputy chief, was filled by Dave Cox.

On Monday, the board also elected Carrie Allord as chair for the year. Allord represents St. Mathias Township on the board. The board's previous chair, Bill Kronstedt of Maple Grove Township, is no longer on the board, as Maple Grove Township now contracts with the Garrison Fire Department for fire service.

The clock's ticking on old trucks

Brainerd city Administrator Jim Thoreen spoke up regarding the department's aging fleet of fire engines and the need to save more money for their eventual replacement.

Although the department recently bought a new fire engine, its fleet includes vehicles that date as far back as the Reagan administration. The new fire engine, which does not include a ladder, cost about $500,000, and one with a ladder would cost double that, Thoreen pointed out. Newer fire engines would likely be needed in the near future, so it would be prudent to start putting more money aside for replacing vehicles, he said.

"We've got that fleet management problem that doesn't go away," he said.

The useful lifespan of a fire engine is considered to be about 20 years.

Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson asked whether older equipment dragged down the department during a recent Insurance Services Office assessment, the result of which was the department staying steady with a rating of four (the ratings go from one to 10 with one being the best). Holmes said the age of equipment was a factor, and the new engine wasn't at the fire department at the time of the assessment.

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