Queen Creek fire officials talk with residents during live Facebook chat

Deputy Chief Vance Gray, left, and Chief Ron Knight of the Queen Creek Fire and Medical Department answered questions from the public Jan. 19 during a live question-and-answer session on Facebook. (Special to the Independent/Town of Queen Creek)

Deputy Chief Vance Gray, left, and Chief Ron Knight of the Queen Creek Fire and Medical Department answered questions from the public Jan. 19 during a live question-and-answer session on Facebook. (Special to the Independent/Town of Queen Creek)

Participants of a live Facebook chat hosted by the town of Queen Creek Jan. 19 had an opportunity to learn more about how the Queen Creek Fire and Medical Department works and the services it offers.

The live online chats have become a communication tool offered by the town to enable residents to speak regularly to department heads about what is taking place in their division. The program was introduced on May 27, when Facebook followers were able to speak to Queen Creek Public Works Director Troy White. Later chats included Queen Creek Traffic Engineer Mohamed Youssef, who responded to questions about wait times at traffic signals and railroad crossings, among other traffic issues.

The 30-minute session Jan. 19 began at 7 p.m. Questions fielded by QCFMD Deputy Chief Vance Gray and Chief Ron Knight dealt with a range of topics, from service calls to upcoming classes.

Zac Baldwin asked about the department’s annual call volume.

“QCFM ran 2,571 calls for service in 2014 and 2,945 calls for service in 2015. We saw a 14 percent increase in call volume in 2015,” was the response.

During an interview after the chat, Chief Knight said about 80 percent of the first-responder calls dealt with emergency medical situations. The remaining 20 percent were fire-based calls involving fires, smoke-alarm checks, fire hydrants and other assistance, he said.

Kathy Emmert asked about the average call response time for both fire and police.

“Hi Kathy. Great question. We have a travel-time goal of four minutes or less to emergency calls. Travel-time is from the time we start driving to the call until we arrive. Looking over the last 12 months, we are about four minutes and 15 seconds. We do not have response times from MCSO Queen Creek but will get you that from them,” was the response.

Jen Wilson McDonald asked if the fire department would ever extend its coverage to the Ironwood Crossings residential community at Ocotillo and Ironwood.

“Ironwood Crossings would have to be annexed into the town for QCFM to provide service. There are not any annexation plans currently for Ironwood Crossings,” was the response.

Participants also learned about plans to expand and relocate the QCFM facilities.

“Did you know that the downtown fire station will be rebuilt? We will be moving across the street from the post office on Ellsworth Loop. Construction is tentatively planned to begin in May/June,” the chiefs offered during the chat.

The downtown fire station at 22407 S. Ellsworth Road, across the street from the Queen Creek Town Hall, is owned by the town and will be repurposed, perhaps as a storage facility or for another municipal use, Chief Knight said during his post-chat interview.

When Kristy Dennison Fife asked if a fire house is going up on the southwest corner of Sossaman and Queen Creek, the chiefs responded, “A recent master plan update supported a fire station at this location and we have acquired the land. This request will be part of the upcoming budget process for consideration.”

The new fire station could be ready as soon as July 2017, Chief Knight said during an interview after the chat. It would require the addition of 15 staff members serving in three shifts, he said.

The live discussion also included upcoming classes and community events. They included:

•Community Emergency Response Team training for residents on seven Thursday evenings starting March 24. The sessions teach participants how to keep his or her family safe in the event of an emergency, according to the posts. Sara Urbaniak-Githens asked who could attend the class and how much it cost. The chiefs responded the class was free, and that town residents would be given priority over non-residents since the class was limited to 25 participants. She was told she could register for the class on the town’s website and search for CERT Registration Form. As part of the CERT program, the town offers an amateur radio group whose members meet on the second Thursday of every month.

Since the CERT program was initiated in 2004, nearly 200 volunteers have been trained, Constance Halonen-Wilson, the town’s public information officer, said in an interview after the chat. The program has more than 50 active CERT volunteers, she said.

•An event offering updated vaccinations for children ages 6 months-18 years is planned for mid-May. It is a partnership between the fire and medical department and Dignity Health.

•The town will host its third annual Queen Creek Fire and Medical Department Open House 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, March 26, at Fire Station 411, 22407 S. Ellsworth Road, across the street from the Queen Creek Town Hall. The event will include displays of fire equipment and an air ambulance as well as medical call demonstrations, Chief Knight said during his post-chat interview.

After the live session ended, Jill Klosowski posted a question to ask how many employees are car-seat technicians? During his post-chat interview, Chief Knight said the department has one certified car-seat technician. He said the certification requires taking a 40-hour class and following up with annual recertifications.

Some participants used the live chat as an opportunity to thank the chiefs for the services performed by fire and medical employees.

Shawna Bock Thackrah wrote: “No question. Just a comment: Any time I have come in contact with QC firemen/women, I have been so appreciative and impressed by their willingness to chat and to pay special attention to my pre-school-aged kids. One day we followed a truck through our neighborhood as you all ‘flushed out’ the water lines. We were enthralled by the quick work that the female fire person did at each and every water hole (for lack of knowing what it is called) with great strength and impressive teamwork between everyone on the truck. Thank you all for the work that you do to keep us safe and to care for us on our worst days. You are appreciated.”

The town plans to hold more live Facebook chats in the future, Ms. Halonen-Wilson said.

The dates and topics will be posted on the town’s website and on its social media sites, she said.

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