Dover’s firefighters responded to more than 1,000 emergency calls during 2013, and already are on track to exceed that figure.

Dover’s firefighters responded to more than 1,000 emergency calls during 2013, and already are on track to exceed that figure, Dover Fire Department Chief Matt Carey reported on Monday.

In providing his annual report to Dover City Council, Carey noted city firefighters responded to 1,045 fire calls last year, up from 998 in 2012. Through March 2014, there already have been 311 fire alarms in the city, he said.

“We’re off to an incredibly busy year,” he said.

2013 also was a busy, but satisfying year, Carey reported, with excellent response times to fire calls and a good turnout of the force’s volunteer firefighters for each call.

“Our morale has been very good,” he said. “We’re moving forward and the city of Dover has a fire department that everyone can be proud of.”

However, firefighting remains dangerous work, a fact the department faced during a December 2013 blaze when Dover crews backed up Hartly firefighters during a house fire in western Kent County. 

Two city firemen had gone inside the burning building on a search and rescue and fire suppression effort when an unburned section of the home fell on top of them, Carey said. Although injured, the men escaped, while a third firefighter was burned while helping them work their way free. One of the three men has yet to return to duty, he said.

“That really hits home,” Carey said. “It’s not just some training video we’ve seen time and time again. It’s real. It hits close to home and it’s never easy to talk about.”

Other major incidents included an October two-car collision on Scarborough Road that resulted in two fatalities and a February blaze at the Super Lodge Motel that resulted in the death of a motel occupant.

The department added a new piece of equipment in 2013, a Kubota RTV dubbed Brush 1; the small vehicle is equipped with a supply of water and firefighting foam and can provide initial fire suppression while awaiting the company’s larger fire gear, Carey said.

The vehicle proved its worth in June at the Firefly Music Fest; kept on call at the music venue, Brush 1 was called into service when a car caught fire with a person inside. Firefighters rescued the unconscious individual while Brush 1 worked to keep the fire from spreading to other vehicles, Carey said.

Dover’s firefighters also responded to reports of lightning strikes, trees falling on homes, two aircraft incidents and flooded streets during 2013, he said.

The chief expressed concern that more than one-third of last year’s fire calls turned out to be false alarms. That statistic is clearly a sore subject for Carey, who took over the top spot at the department at the end of 2013.

“It’s a real drain,” Carey said in a separate interview. “We answer all calls for service, but it’s a waste of resources, time and money every time we go out to one of those things.”

But Carey has additional concerns. A city committee studying how to reduce costs has looked at possibly transferring the department’s fire dispatchers to Kent County’s emergency 911 center, a move he opposes.

In addition to maintaining the department’s fire equipment and taking care of the two fire stations, the camaraderie the dispatchers share with firefighters on the scene makes their efforts more efficient

“They do an outstanding job and it takes a lot of pressure off our volunteers by allowing us to concentrate on focusing on training and answering calls,” Carey said.

However, the chief added, he’s had a good relationship with City Council and city departments and is confident the fire department will continue to receive their support.

In addition, the backing the department receives from Dover residents has been outstanding, he said.

“People in Dover know they’ve got a first-class fire department and people always treat us with the utmost respect,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for anything more from our community.”