Mutual aid helps QC crews during month of many structure fires

Local News

As temperatures are warming up, we’re hopefully turning the corner on a high volume of fires around the Quad-Cities.

It’s kept local fire crews busy during February, a month when Local 4 News responded to 18 structure fires.

When fires start to get out of control, it’s critical for departments to ensure enough firefighters are on hand to put out the flames. That’s when mutual aid – departments from other cities – comes in.

“We need a minimum of 18 people on the fire scene,” said John Swan, Colona fire chief.

Flames have been bursting out of homes and structures throughout the whole month of February. Local fire departments have had their hands full trying to put out the fires. One of the most important factors in taming a blaze is making sure there are enough firefighters on the scene.

Because of that, there is a statewide response unit for mutual aid.

“It’s called MABAS, Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, where it’s all pre-planned so if we have a house fire or it doesn’t matter what we need, it’s done at a moment’s notice through a box card system,” Swan said.

Mutual aid is now automatic, but that wasn’t always the case.

“Years ago, if we needed help, we had to think about where we were in town and who would be closest,” said Greg Marty, Rock Island Fire Marshall. “Now those decisions are automatic. Based on the location of where we are, our dispatchers can automatically look at a series of cards and they know who to call based on what we’re requesting.”

Marty says that the MABAS system continues to be rewritten so that it can continue to be as efficient as possible. Having it done automatically also saves valuable time so crews can focus on responding and putting out the fire. Because of mutual aid, all of the local fire departments, regardless of where they are, have stayed busy with responding to burning buildings.

“We’ve had two fires here the past month,” Swan said. “But we go almost weekly responding to fires with mutual aid with the other departments that surround us.” 

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