DeKalb Fire Department sees calls decrease in 2020

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Northern Star File Photo

Fire Truck is parked in the garage at the first DeKalb Fire House, 700 Pine St. 

Kierra Frazier, Managing Editor

DeKALB – The DeKalb Fire Department saw a decrease in the number of calls for emergency services in 2020 due to COVID-19, Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said at Monday’s City Council meeting. 

McMaster presented the annual report for 2020 for the DeKalb Fire Department at Monday’s meeting. He said members of the DeKalb Fire Department were fully committed to serving the community in 2020, which was a “mysterious and challenging time.”

“Twenty-twenty was a year that everybody will remember, and at times, want to forget,” McMaster said. “What was remarkable about 2020 was how our community rallied around each other from every angle.”

In 2020, the Fire Department responded to 6,325 requests for emergency services, a decrease of 343 calls compared to 2019, which saw 6,668 calls, according to the May 24 City Council agenda

“During the early stages of the pandemic – March through May 2020 – the Department saw a dramatic decrease in requests for service,” the agenda reads. “Citizens were reluctant to leave their homes, including visits to the hospital, doctor and other health care providers.”

The Department, however, recorded roughly the same number of emergency medical services calls, with COVID-19-related reductions most prominent in false alarms – which often originate from NIU – motor vehicle accidents and business-related calls for hazardous conditions. Fire calls increased due to the greater time spent by families in their homes, according to the agenda. 

In 2020, about 76% of requests were for emergency medical services, 8% were false alarms, 5% were for hazardous conditions, 4% were for car accidents, 4% were for other services and 3% were for fire-related incidents. 

During the past decade, the Fire Department has seen a 19.43% increase in total call volume, according to the agenda. The total request for services equates to an average of approximately 17 requests per day in 2020, down from 18 calls per day in 2019. 

Since January 2021, the Fire Department is currently outpacing the call volume seen in 2019, which was a record year, McMaster said. The Fire Department fully anticipates surpassing the 2019 mark this year, he added. 

“This was a true display of ‘Proudly DeKalb;’ on behalf of the men and women of the Fire Department, we thank everyone for your support now, in the past, and in the future as we continue to meet the needs of the city,” McMaster said. 

Mayor Cohen Barnes said the annual report presentation was wonderful to listen to the commitment of the firefighters to the community and to each other.

“The camaraderie that you all have and the successful recruitment that you’ve all made with your team is just absolutely phenomenal to see, and I always love, when I saw the picture of the ladder truck with that big old hashtag ‘Proudly DeKalb’ sign – I think you guys are the epitome of what hashtag ‘Proudly DeKalb’ is,” Barnes said. 

Council members approve 17-unit apartment plan

The DeKalb City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday to establish 17 apartment units at 400 E. Hillcrest Drive and 444 E. Hillcrest Drive.

DeKalb business owner Chuck Shepard requested a special use permit to establish the 17 apartment units on the second floor of two buildings, according to the May 24 City Council agenda. Shepard is proposing 14 one-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units. 

Shepard said noise from the second-floor apartments shouldn’t disrupt the businesses on the first floor.

“When the buildings were built, they actually used wood construction, which tends to be more quiet, and they used plywood and soundboard, and we’re looking at additional things to do to address that,” Shepard said. 

In the smaller building, 400 E. Hillcrest Drive, there will be seven one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit with 800 square feet and 900 square feet floor sizes, respectively. The building at 444 E. Hillcrest Drive would feature seven one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units with 675 square feet and 975 square feet floor sizes, respectively. 

Rents will vary from approximately $950 to $1,150 per month, according to the agenda.