Clovis Fire announces Firefighter of the Year, shares 2017 stats

Clovis firefighter Fred Edwards (center) takes a photo with family and council members after accepting the Firefighter of the Year award presented to him by Clovis Firefighters Association for his dedication and service. (Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

Clovis Fire Chief John Binaski honored three individuals—two for safe driving and one as Firefighter of the Year—at the March 12 city council meeting.

The Firefighter of the Year, who will also be recognized at the Hall of Fame dinner in September, is Fred Edwards. Edwards was one of two candidates nominated by his peers. Ultimately, the Clovis Firefighters Association selected Edwards for his outstanding service and volunteerism.

“Fred is often the first one to volunteer to help others in the department both on and off duty, and I think this is an honor he has earned through his actions since he has become a member of the department,” Clovis Firefighters Association union president Tim Lesmeister said.

Fred Edwards holds his Firefighter of the Year award plaque while giving his acceptance speech. (Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

Edwards works with the fire department as an engineer, ensuring the department’s fleet of vehicles and accompanying equipment is operating to the best of its ability. He also frequently volunteers to assist fellow employees with their projects both on the job and at home. Edwards also represents the Clovis Fire at numerous events held at Valley Children’s Hospital.

“His example is one all members of Clovis Firefighters Association should strive to emulate,” Lesmeister said. “Fred’s community service and excellent job performance are shining examples of what Clovis fire should be.”

Edwards fought back tears as he accepted his plaque in front of the city council and gave all the credit for his award back to the department and his wife.

“I think this should be renamed ‘Firefighter Wife of the Year’ because she is constantly facilitating and allowing me to do all these things I’m being honored for today. Without her none of this would be possible, so a special thanks to her and my family, my four girls,” Edwards said. “I thank the association and the city for allowing me to use my gifts and abilities because you can’t do it on your own, it is a family and a team. I’m happy to be part of such a strong team and family and to be able to give back to my community.”

Two firefighter engineers were also recognized for safe driving records. Mike Macy, who has been with the department since 2004 and has worked as an engineer driving the large engines since January 2011, was awarded for five years of safe driving. Tim Lesmeister, who has been with the department since 2000 and has been an engineer since 2006, was awarded for 10 years of safe driving.

Binaski said safe driving awards are hard to obtain since fire trucks are extremely large and difficult to maneuver and they must be driven in emergency rush situations. A fire engine, he said, weighs approximately 40,000 pounds, and big fire trucks with a ladder on top weigh between 68,000 and 70,000 pounds.

While Clovis, Binaksi said, is fortunate to have pre-emptive technology where a fire engine can override stop lights and turn them green unless there is a pedestrian crossing, there are still hazards with cars failing to yield to the right appropriately.

“it is a very hazardous position within the fire department for someone every day to have to make conscious decisions and get our troops there safely,” Binaksi said. “If we cause a wreck or something happens along the way, we don’t get to the emergency we are trying to help assist.”

Binaski shares year-end report

In addition to recognizing Edwards, Macy and Lesmeister, Binaksi also took the opportunity to present the fire department’s 2017 year-end report at the March 12 meeting.

To start, Binaski celebrated some of the departments greatest accomplishments. The department, he said, continues to maintain its accreditation and currently boasts an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) rating of Class 2, which is higher than that of neighboring agencies in Fresno and Visalia that have ratings of Class 3.

In 2017, the department also purchased a new rig to replace its 30-year-old converted Pepsi truck. The new vehicle came in handy as Clovis Fire was deployed to assist with the mudslides in Montecito.

The department also saw survivability rates among those experiencing cardiac arrest improve from nine percent survivability to 30 percent. While there is still room for improvement, Binaski said this is huge and means the department is getting to these emergencies faster and making the right calls.

In general, however, Binaski said the department is not meeting its goal of being to each emergency within six minutes and 30 seconds. The goal is to meet that threshold 90 percent of the time. Instead, the department’s average is seven minutes and 17 seconds. For accidents and chemical fires, the goal is to reach the scene within seven minutes—that extra 30 seconds is given to put on protective gear—and the department could improve on this time also, with the average response being seven minutes and 24 seconds.

“We are still really good in the city to get multiple units deployed quickly. Where you are really seeing the issue is in the outskirts,” Binaksi said, noting that the Loma Vista area is one of the main challenges and they will soon have another fire station out there. Harlan Ranch is the other area with higher response times and while that too should improve when Owens Mountain goes through directly, the neighborhood is a challenging one for big fire engines to navigate.

Financially, the department was on target, with property loss last year totaling $2.8 million, with the goal being under $2.4 million. Nearly $1 million of that property loss was a result of the large commercial fire at DaVinci’s Pizza on Shaw and Peach avenues.

As for calls, the department responded to 5,821 medical emergency calls (60 percent overall calls), 2,252 good intent service calls, 538 vehicle accident and rescue calls, 147 hazardous conditions calls, 421 fire calls and 604 false alarm calls.

Several of the calls were located within the county or in Fresno, as the goal of all three agencies is to work together to ensure the closest unit arrives on scene. Through this partnership, however, Binaski acknowledged that Clovis Fire has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting. In 2017, Fresno County aided Clovis on 272 occasions while Clovis returned the favor 285 times, which is relatively equal, but the city of Fresno aided Clovis 250 times compared to Clovis aiding Fresno residents 657 times.

“Our goal is to get the closest unit to you no matter where you are in Fresno County, Fresno or Clovis,” Binaki said. “This has always been in some aspects better for our cooperating partners than for the city of Clovis, but I’m working to get that back into alignment. At the same time I have a hard time telling neighbors that they aren’t going to get the closest fire engine. We are going to work our way through that. I’m trying to close the gap with Fresno city.”