One weekend. Three fires.
The Long Beach Fire Department was called to action three times this past weekend: once for a second-alarm garage fire; once for a fire at the Port of Long Beach that spread to a nearby building and burned a boat; and once for an attic fire in Bixby Knolls.
“It’s not usual, but it’s not unusual either,” said Jake Heflin, Long Beach Fire Department Public Information Officer and firefighter, of the three fires.
Records obtained from the Long Beach Fire Department show that calls to service for fires have increased recently. 2020 had more calls for fires than any other year in the past decade, a total of 2,430 calls.
“Our call volume has continued to increase,” Heflin said. “Over the years, we continue to see an evolution of the calls to service that we continue to provide. The scope of calls for service has consistently increased.”
The Long Beach Fire Department addresses a large variety of blazes: apartment fires, boat fires, brush fires, dumpster fires, garage fires, grass fires, house fires, stove fires, oven fires, vehicle fires, even mailbox fires.
Heflin said that, as Long Beach’s population continues to grow, so does the frequency of fires.
“Fortunately, we haven’t had a significant incident where there’s been a fatality, but there certainly has been property loss,” he said. “The reality is, these are things that we, as a large city, are prone to.”
In 2020, the majority of calls for fires were listed as “unknown” fires, followed closely by trash fires, brush fires and vehicle fires.
“We will continue to meet those needs and continue to meet those calls for service,” Heflin said. “Even though some of our fire departments are extremely busy.”
The National Fire Protection Association lists the top causes of fires as cooking, heating, electrical, smoking and candles. The association has a number of tip sheets on fire prevention. These sheets range from mitigation efforts for people with disabilities to safety and preparedness.
“I love the sheets,” he said. “They’re really great and packed full of information, whether it’s cooking fires, whether it’s electrical fires, heating fires, smoking or candles, but then you even get into the seasonal fire causes.”
Heflin said that, in the wake of increased calls for fires, the department continues to focus on an all-risks all-hazards approach, which focuses on capacities and capabilities that are critical to preparedness for a full spectrum of emergencies.
This approach has allowed the department to adapt to the ever-changing emergency needs of the city.
“It’s pretty significant,” he said. “That’s a testimony to the dedication and the level of service that we provide. Dedication, meaning that individuals, people that put the uniform on every day and go to work to serve the community.”