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New software available to assist area fire departments

Crosslake fire chief praises program that helps assess risks and identify trends

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The Crosslake Fire Hall.
PineandLakes Echo Journal file photo.
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Minnesota’s fire departments have a new tool to help prevent or reduce the number of fires in their communities and ultimately save lives, according to a news release.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division launched a new fire risk analysis tool and made it available to the fire service statewide.

"This is a great resource for all fire departments in Minnesota — both metro and rural," said Chip Lohmiller, Crosslake fire chief. "The data in this program will help us identify our high-risk populations to better focus resources and determine areas in our jurisdiction that we need to focus on more public education and fire prevention."

This software platform is unique in mapping which areas of a jurisdiction have the most fires and pinpoints what caused them. Fire chiefs can use these data points to:

  • Identify high-risk populations and communities to better focus resources.
  • Identify staffing needs at fire stations based on the numbers and types of fires.
  • Plan where mobile shifts should park their rigs at specific times.
  • Determine which neighborhoods need public education around fire prevention.
  • Measure and track fire mitigation efforts.
  • Strategize where to build future fire stations.

“We are committed to providing the Minnesota fire service the tools they need to continue serving their communities at the highest levels,” Minnesota State Fire Marshal Jim Smith said in the news release. “Data is critical to preventing fires, saving lives and continuing the important work fire departments do every day. That is why we are so passionate about this tool and proud to put it in our firefighters’ hands.”
The Fire Risk Analysis Tool includes fire data back to 2004, along with open source and demographic data, which will help a fire official understand a community’s fire risk profile and its specific prevention needs.

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An algorithm goes one step further by analyzing past fire events to draw patterns and predict the likelihood of fires to increase or decrease in a specific area.

Area firefighters are already beginning to plan using the SFM Urban Logiq's Fire Analysis Tool.

Right now, smoking-related fires are the number one cause of fire deaths statewide. The Fire Risk Analysis Tool could offer the data needed to bring those numbers down by identifying where people are smoking and what age groups are most affected.

The goal is to use the information to be strategic about prevention efforts when departments continue to face limited funding and resources.

“When it comes to fire prevention, it is not a one size fits all solution,” Deputy State Fire Marshal Bob Reif said in the release. “Each community is unique. In terms of risk reduction strategies, what works for one department may not work for another. Access to these critical insights empowers fire officials to save more lives by catering specific solutions for the needs of their individual communities.”

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Lohmiller said the ability to learn from past fire calls will be crucial to using the program to its best effect, even in the Crosslake area where there aren't as many fire calls.

"Fire prevention and public education is they key to saving lives," Lohmiller said. "The program will also help with response, inspections and risk reductions. The data also has many sources to help local departments with trends, including CDC, Characteristics of the community, history, growth, driving factors for fires, demographics and more."

The SMFD initiated the planning for this database four years ago after 2017 fire deaths in Minnesota reached a 22-year high. Sixty-eight people died in fires that year. That was a 58% increase over 2016 and the highest number since 1995.

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As part of the process, staff worked with Vancouver-based UrbanLogiq to build the platform in concert with state experts and the Minnesota fire service. Over the past several months, fire chiefs received extensive training on how to use the Fire Risk Analysis Tool to make faster decisions directly focused on reducing fire risks and saving lives.

Related Topics: FIRESCROSSLAKE FIRE DEPARTMENT
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