Fire Chief Tim Butler

Fire Chief Tim Butler
Thanks for checking out my web log! My radio call sign in Saint Paul is "Car 1." Join me as we go "On Scene" to the fire stations, training evolutions, emergency incidents, and community events in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Let's share perspectives on the issues facing our Department, our community, and the American Fire Service!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Of all the accomplishments of the Saint Paul Fire Department in 2009, one that I am most proud of is that the City of Saint Paul suffered NO civilian fire fatalities! Since the department began keeping records of fire fatalities 63 years ago, we have never had a “zero year.” This is an amazing statistic for an urban area of our size. By contrast, the City has had about 3 fire deaths per year in the last decade, and a record high of 28 such deaths in 1973. Nationwide, the fire fatality rate is about 1 victim for every 100,000 residents.

There is no doubt that most fire fatalities occur in residential structures. About 75% of all fire injuries and deaths occur in the home – where people should feel the safest. In Saint Paul – and in the rest of Minnesota – most FIRES are the result of unsafe cooking practices (usually people being inattentive and walking away from the kitchen when food is cooking on the stovetop). Most fire FATALITIES, however, are caused by improperly discarded smoking materials or smoking in bed. The last fire fatality to occur in Saint Paul was in the summer of 2008, and was the result of a smoking-in-bed situation.

I wanted to share with readers of this blog an email I sent “to the troops” last week recognizing this historic accomplishment. Certainly it was a “team effort” by a number of City departments and individuals, but I wanted to highlight some of the contributions made by the Fire Department that significantly impacted the record low fatality rate. So, here’s the email so you can read about those reasons as well.

On this beautiful cool morning in Minnesota, I hope you are enjoying a safe and comfortable weekend. Watch that stove, and please check your smoke detectors if you haven’t done that yet this year. Stay safe, and thank you for “riding along” with me as we go “on scene” with Saint Paul Fire crews in our pursuit of making Saint Paul “The Most Livable City in America!”


== January 7 Email To All Saint Paul Fire Department Members ==

Good Morning, Everyone!

In 2009, Saint Paul suffered no civilian fire fatalities. Records of such fatalities stretch back to 1946….63 years of records. In that time there has NEVER been a calendar year with zero civilian fire fatalities. This is a historic accomplishment for our department and our City, and is an extremely rare achievement for an urban city in America!

Many entities and individuals are responsible for this success, including: firefighters; fire and code inspectors; policy makers, Council, and City Attorney experts who helped pass fire safety ordinances; and business managers and home owners who have installed suppression systems and smoke detectors.

Within the Fire Department, every division and employee played a role in preventing fire fatalities in 2009. From Firefighters, to the Training Division, to Equipment Services, to the Clerical and Support Staff, all played a role! I think it’s appropriate, however, to highlight some of the people who made significant contributions to this historic accomplishment.

Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard and his staff deserve a lion’s share of the credit for the incredible work they’ve done over the past 25 years to build public awareness of fire safety and to teach risk reduction strategies like escape drills, smoke detector installation, and to enact fire and life safety codes. Often unnoticed and unsung, the Fire Investigators, Fire Inspectors, and Public Educators have worked daily to educate, enforce, enact, and foster fire safety in our City. Although Fire Inspections is now under the daily direction of DSI, it was Steve Zaccard and his assistants who built and nurtured a program of proactive and aggressive compliance inspections. Their enduring work over the last 25 years has been a key to our success in 2009.

Our firefighters are unquestionably top notch! I am learning first hand how tough and aggressive your are – how you’re willing to push yourself to the very limits of physical endurance to search for, find, and rescue victims of fire and make fast attacks and quick knockdowns on fires to prevent injuries, property damage and deaths. Our tactics are decidedly different than other departments our size – and the results speak to the wisdom and value of those significant differences! There are few individuals on earth that would willingly do what you do – far fewer who can actually do it so superbly!

One critical success factor for our department is that we have certified paramedic firefighters on the scene of every fire scene. Having top notch paramedic crews and advanced cardiac and airway management equipment on scene to immediately render aid to injured civilians has undoubtedly meant recovery for some who would otherwise because a fatality statistic. Delivering definitive emergency medical care in the arduous conditions found on most fire scenes is certainly not the textbook situation – but you have rewritten that book several times over with your devoted work. I have personally witnessed fire fatalities prevented because of your immediate on scene work and quick transport to Regions. I cannot imagine a quality hospital system without Saint Paul EMTs and Paramedics as the first link in that system!

Finally, I want to recognize our field commanders – the Captains and District Chiefs who command these fire scenes. They have repeatedly focused on the “life safety” priority, and kept both citizens and crews from peril through their decisive commands and directions. From the most grizzled veteran to the newest District Chief, our command staff and Safety Officers are top notch, and they deserve a lot of the credit for the low fatality rate we have achieved – in both civilian and firefighter lives!

Zero fire fatalities! Some will call it “luck” – a fluke of circumstances. There’s some truth in that – we all know that that statistic can change dramatically with a single fire. However, “Luck” is a lot what you make it, too, and I know this historic achievement would not have been possible without some incredible work on the part of our Fire Department professionals. Many of the fires we’ve had in 2008 (also a historic low for civilian fire fatalities) and this year would have resulted in fatalities without your rapid intervention and dedicated work!

As we move into the new year, please continue to keep the focus on safety and making “life” the top priority. Keep up the great work on scene and in the fire stations, before and after the call. Let’s continue to focus on education, enforcement, and response as the triple crown of preventing fire fatalities!

Stay safe and keep up the incredible work!


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