AURORA — Fire alarms were up slightly and rescue calls were down in 2017 compared to 2016, according to annual statistics released in early February by Fire Chief David Barnes.

Fire alarms have seen a steady rise in the last five years, with 462 logged last year, 443 in 2016, 436 in 2015, 416 in 2014 and 386 in 2013.

Rescue calls dropped to 1,675 in 2017 from 1,750 in 2016. Calls numbered 1,561 in 2015, 1,570 in 2014 and 1,498 in 2013.

Total calls were down by 56 between 2016 and 2017, with 2,193 and 2,137 logged, respectively. Barnes said average response time was 4.21 minutes to fire calls and 3.97 minutes to emergency calls.

Fire loss in 2017 was estimated at $320,895. "This was mostly from house fires on Shawnee Trail and Orchard Avenue and a garage fire on Meadowview Drive," said Barnes.

"All of these fires were extinguished quickly, and there were no injuries to anyone."

Barnes noted Capt. Bradley Davis retired in 2017 after serving the community for 36 years. He served the city for nine years as a police officer and 27 years as a firefighter.

Lt. Matthew McBirney was promoted to captain after Davis’ retirement, while Ed Gregol was promoted to lieutenant and Jerod Holzman was hired as a full-time firefighter.

Barnes reported major purchases last year were 22 new self-contained breathing apparatus funded by a FEMA grant, new MARCS radios and iPads for a new fire and EMS reporting system.

The department also took delivery of a new rescue squad vehicle purchased in 2016. On its roster currently are four rescue squads, three engine trucks, a ladder truck and five cars. Plans this year are to purchase a new squad to replace an older model.

"In 2017, we increased daily fire safety inspections, adding more detail and depth," said Barnes. "A lock box program was instituted in conjunction with the mayor’s office, and almost 50 residents have installed one."

The department provides a number of fire safety programs for the schools and businesses, including fire extinguisher training, CPR and first aid classes, the Aurora One Fund’s smoke detector program and Firepup.

CPR classes were taught to 364 people and first aid to 108, while about 60 child protective seats were installed in residents’ vehicles.

Major construction projects monitored during the year were the new McMaster-Carr warehouse, R.P. Gatta addition and remodeling projects at Rovisys, the Aurora Inn, WESCO, Barrington Place clubhouse and the Atrium at Anna Maria.

Barnes said the Portage County Fire Investigation Unit was led by Aurora firefighter Lynn Scott. It had 20 callouts in 2017. In the past eight years, it has responded to 184 callouts.

Many adults and youngsters visit the fire station annually for tours, blood pressure checks, fire safety tips and the end of year American Red Cross bloodmobile.

Firemen and paramedics participate in the July 4 parade, Truck Day, Vehicle Day at Miller School, Safety Town, Portage County None for Under 21, Fall Family Festival and Business Showcase, Memorial Day parade, open houses, egg hunts and health fairs.

Paramedics participated in a variety of monthly training sessions covering topics such as hemodialysis, the respiratory system, intranasal medicating, bites and stings, "Stop the Bleed" and syncope and dissections.

Training for firefighters included two-firefighter search and rescue, water supply drafting, water shuttle operations, ground ladder operations, safety in managing electrical responses and reviewing pre-plans for several businesses.

Local fire instructors are Barnes, McBirney, Scott, Ron Matkowski and Tony Marotta.

"A continuous quality improvement committee was organized consisting of medical director Dr. Marc Allen and a firefighter from each shift," said Barnes.

"The committee reviewed a certain percentage of EMS calls, and data was collected to identify areas that needed improvement."

Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or klahmers@recordpub.com