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Fire risk data tool to help departments strategically plan response

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division initiated the planning for this database after 2017 fire deaths in Minnesota reached a 22-year high.

Firefighters training on a ladder.
Crosslake Fire department training to respond to community needs.
Contributed / Chip Lohmiller
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CROSSLAKE — A new fire analysis tool introduced by the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division looks to provide departments with fire data to better plan for emergencies and to educate the public.

With 37 square miles of coverage area, Crosslake Fire Department has 23 firefighters and three emergency medical services personnel to respond to emergencies, said Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller.

Screenshot of the Fire Risk Analysis Tool.
Screenshot of the Fire Risk Analysis Tool looking at Crosslake's fire data.
Contributed / Chip Lohmiller

Lohmiller said he has worked with the fire marshal's office on the Fire Risk Analysis Tool, which takes data from fire calls and fires across the state and compiles it into a searchable database.

“It'll show trends, it'll help you identify at-risk populations and communities to help determine which neighborhoods are in need of public education and fire prevention,” Lohmiller said.

The Fire Marshal Division initiated the planning for the Fire Risk Analysis Tool’s database after 2017 fire deaths in Minnesota reached a 22-year high. Sixty-eight people died in fires that year, a 58% increase over 2016 and the highest number since 1995, the state reported.

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The four-year project required the division to initiate a request for proposals and it awarded a contract to UrbanLogiq in 2018. Work began then to start populating the data.

Data can be presented in a map or table format with selectable fire demographic, allowing Lohmiller and other fire chiefs to find areas in their communities in need of education or assistance.

Lohmiller said the data can be used to show him the locations of older houses or senior citizens in his community, allowing him to possibly target the area with flyers offering assistance with installation or testing of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

“I think fire prevention is the quickest tool to putting out a fire,” Lohmiller said.

The data can assist departments with scheduling and hiring as it will show where most fires occur and when a department is most likely to receive a call for service. This allows a fire chief to schedule a crew when it will most likely be needed and gives smaller departments the ability to hire firefighters across their coverage area.

The state fire marshal’s office said there is no fee for a department to use the tool and more than 770 departments across the state have access to the software.

This software platform is unique in mapping which areas of a jurisdiction have the most fires and pinpoints what caused them, a news release said.

The Fire Risk Analysis Tool was released to departments on Nov. 16. The fire marshal's office plans to update the app with fire data on a regular basis.

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Fire chiefs can use these data points to:

  • Identify high-risk populations and communities to better focus resources.
  • Identify staffing needs at fire stations based on the numbers and types of fires.
  • Plan where mobile shifts should park their rigs at specific times.
  • Determine which neighborhoods need public education about fire prevention.
  • Measure and track fire mitigation efforts.
  • Strategize where to build future fire stations.

Source: Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Division.

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TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Related Topics: FIRESCROSSLAKE FIRE DEPARTMENTMINNESOTA
Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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