The Scottsboro Fire Department responded to 2,317 incidents in 2020, with the most notable being the tragic Jackson County Park Marina fire last January that caused eight deaths and an estimated $500,000 in property damage.
“An incident of the gravity that the marina fire brought is incredibly difficult to process,” said Fire Chief Gene Necklaus. “Our people pride themselves on being able to help others, and there was so little that we could do that morning.”
Necklaus said the department was able to acquire a fire and response boat and develop internal training and lake operations procedures following the tragedy.
“The emotional weight is more difficult to quantify,” he said. “Shortly after the fire, and then again mid-year, we brought in different people with experience in first responder trauma to do some group sessions, and also be available for individual follow-ups.”
In the aftermath, Necklaus said his people have grown closer and have learned to rely on each other for support at times.
“This remains a focus moving forward,” said Necklaus. “I appreciate the mayor and city council recognizing the personal burdens of public safety and helping build the tools to best handle those burdens.”
Necklaus said the COVID pandemic impacted how fire department members were able to process the marina tragedy.
“I think COVID impacted everybody to some degree: less public interaction, schools and businesses closing or changing,” he said. “It affected everybody. In addition to those things, we were working through changing some of the ways we responded to best protect firefighters and still serve the public.”
Necklaus said early in the pandemic, the department’s call volume decreased, likely because people were staying in and less likely to want to face exposure possibilities at the hospitals.
“As everyone became more accustomed to the 2020 world, we did see our responses come back to level,” said Necklaus.
Necklaus said the department has been fortunate thus far not to experience a mass-exposure of COVID.
“Over the last nine months, we had several firefighters exposed or positive and out of work, some of them for significant times,” he said. “But we were able to maintain our minimum staffing throughout and were lucky that our COVID absences were spread out and didn’t happen all at once. With the vaccine now in circulation, I don’t expect to have any major setbacks because of COVID. But then again, if we learned anything from 2020, it was to prepare for the unexpected.”
Of the 2,317 incidents in 2020, 1,383 were medical responses. The fire department responded to 80 fire incidents during 2020. These included structure fires, vehicle fires and outdoor fires. The 23 structure fires had an estimated property loss of $85,630. Overall the property and contents saved by the Scottsboro Fire responses are valued at an estimated $450,000, according to Necklaus.
With three stations located throughout Scottsboro, the department provides first response to almost 60 square miles of the city limits and an additional 40 square miles of fire jurisdiction outside of the city limits.
“We are proud to maintain a response time average of under six minutes to those within the 100 square miles,” said Necklaus.