KFD calls spike 300% during storm

While last week’s ice storm might have shut down some businesses, it put the Keizer Fire District to work.

KFD responded to 52 calls from 7 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 23, to 7 a.m. Dec. 24. They average 18 calls in a 24-hour period. 

The looming storm was known about days ahead of time, and gave them some ample prep time. Deputy Fire Marshall Anne-Marie Storms said that they faced the problem of wanting to be prepared, but not waste resources on being overprepared.

“It’s always hard,” Storms said. “How many times do we see weather warnings and it’s not that bad?”

But this one was. 

And KFD was ready for the near 300% spike in calls they saw once the storm hit and the ice formed. 

The trucks were fitted with chains, something Storms said KFD will need more of in the future as they broke over the course of the day, traveling more miles than they’re designed to. 

But their vehicles faced the same struggles as others out on the road with the lack of plows, salt and other winter weather infrastructure. 

According to Storms, one medic truck was stuck on the ice and boosted out by a civilian pickup truck. 

“For the resources we had, what we were given, it went well,” Storms said. 

And perhaps one of those biggest resources for Storms and KFD were the people working the Willamette Valley Call Center, where all 911 calls for the valley to the coast are routed. 

Storms gave kudos to the call center for their work during the storm.

“They took care of the brunt, getting things sorted out,” Storms said. 

According to Storms, the majority of the 52 calls were medical calls, and most of those were for slip-and-falls. 

And as has been the case recently, Salem Health Hospital was at capacity and diverting ambulances. However, KFD continued taking patients to Salem Health, as the conditions made it more dangerous to drive to another hospital rather than the extended wait to drop a patient off. 

It was just another factor to possibly throw a proverbial wrench in KFD’s planning. 

Storms said that they try to use time estimates for calls. Downed power lines, which wasn’t nearly as big an issue with this year’s storm as in the past, are generally a 15 minute call. Medical calls are more than an hour. 

With travel delays, the increase in medical calls and delays at the hospital, often times this left interim Fire Chief Ryan Russell, who came in on his day off, or a battalion chief sitting at a call waiting alongside the patient for the ambulance to arrive.

“End of the day, we’re always going to be there,” Storms said. “It just might take a little longer.”