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PdC Fire Chief provides 2023 year-in-review

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Tad Beutin, the City of Prairie du Chien’s Fire Chief, attended the Common Council meeting on Feb. 6 to provide a summary of the department’s activity in 2023. Abram stated infrastructural employees would be called upon to give regular presentations to the council in future meetings.

Beutin’s 2023 report gave a comprehensive look at the Fire Department’s activity throughout the calendar year. In total the department responded to 113 calls.

There were eight calls for residential or commercial structural fires. Of those incidents, one was attributed to arson. Two of those calls were to Universal Forest Products (UFP) in June and September. The first caused $25,000 in damage while the second involved two explosions in the extrusion line and exterior dust bins. That fire resulted in approximately $1.5 million in losses followed by an additional $40,000 per day in manufacturing losses. Other fire incidents involved a semi-truck, a house on 7th Street and a chicken coop. Damages from fires in 2023 amounted to approximately $1.7 million, an increase from $321,600 the year before and $692,100 in 2021.

The Fire Department responded to 31 water flow or fire alarms and seven carbon monoxide alarms, 10 motor vehicle crashes in which two required extrication, two elevator incidents, three odor investigations, and three natural gas leaks among other causes.

Beutin reported the department responded to three mutual aid calls: an electrocution in Eastman, a structure fire in Boscobel and a train derailment in DeSoto.

Beutin stated there were 597 inspections completed during the year with 113 violations and 53 re-inspections. There are 337 properties in Prairie du Chien that fall under the Fire Department’s onus for inspections. Beutin’s report stated the department had five state certified fire inspectors. In addition, he observed multiple sprinkler and alarm tests throughout the city and the Town of Bridgeport.

Members of the department logged 957 training hours in 2023. Three members completed their Entry Level Firefighter class. PdC firefighters are required to take one training a month and Beutin noted many of their membership attended every offered training.

Other time uses included building and vehicle maintenance (38 hours), controlled burns (32 hours) and flood relief and assistance (18 hours). Volunteer work totaled 2005 hours with 103 in public education, 97 in parades and 112 selling Christmas Trees. The department also logged 797 hours  toward the construction of the Fire Association Shelter on St. Feriole Island in 2023. Beutin said the shelter was nearly completed.

“We have some plat work to do and water work—putting water lines in—but that’ll be done in the Spring,” he said.

The department’s 150th celebration was held on July 15. 

“We had an event on the island that was well-attended,” Beutin said. “We had a car show, we did a water fight, we did all kinds of things. It was a such a success we were asked to repeat it, and we are going to do that again this year.” He added the event will be called a Family Fun Day and held on July 13. The report also gave credit to Lt. Jaaren Riebe for work on the event.

The Fire Chief expressed his gratitude to the city for the purchase of a fire truck, which was expected to be in service by 2026. 

“That was a big deal for us to purchase that,” Beutin said. “It replaced [sic] two vehicles we currently have.” The existing pieces of equipment were considered to be non-compliant. The department’s equipment and the personal equipment of its members were considered to be in generally excellent condition.

“I don’t forsee us needing to replace equipment for a number of years down the road,” Beutin added.

Beutin credited community fundraising for helping the department accrue funds as well. There were anonymous donations as large as $10,000. Among a variety of community fundraisers, Piggly Wiggly in Prairie du Chien ran a roundup that raised $3,300. “The community really came together and really helped us out.”

Beutin touched on recruitment strategies, community outreach and a possible mutual aid agreement with Clayton and Allamakee counties, which was still in the exploratory phase. Beutin concluded the relationship with the department and the city had improved over the course of the year.

“It seems like the city and the fire department have a lot less animosity,” he said at the end of his presentation.

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