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Syracuse Fire Department: On pace to break call record this year

Mark Giles
A surplus of calls means that Syracuse firefighters are stressed and busier than they've ever been.

The Syracuse Fire Department could set a record for the number of calls this year and officials aren't sure why.

Last year, the Syracuse Fire Department answered over 25,000 alarms. Just under half of them were EMS calls, ranging from car accidents to heart attacks.

If statistics hold, Fire Chief Mark McLees says they are on pace to answer 26,000 calls by the end of December -- the most ever in a calendar year. 

McLees says some of the calls are for "difficulty breathing, heart attacks, people stuck in elevators. We went to a construction accident this morning. So just a greater demand on the fire department is what we are trying to highlight," he said.

"If we have what we call a major structural fire once a week, that would be normal. But we are having one, two, or three a week and that is way above normal," McLees said.

McLees doesn't know why so many people are calling the department, but he says the dry weather doesn't help. For example, there have been a large number of mulch fires. He says smokers have to be careful, especially in weather like this, to discard of their cigarettes carefully.

McLees says he has the staff to answer the calls, however the frequency means there's not enough time for firefighters to regroup after alarms. More calls means more stress for the firefighters.

"You can go to a fire and be done with that fire in an hour, hour and a half, but you still have more alarms waiting for you when you're done. You could have a car accident or a child having an asthma attack. So we are very, very busy," McLees said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.