Des Moines Fire Department Responds to Record Number of Calls in 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  This has been an unprecedented year for both local and statewide firefighters. Crews are dealing with record-breaking statistics and calls for service.

"We're seeing about a 4.5% increase each year over the last several years in call volumes," says Lieutenant Joe Van Haalen, president of the IAFF #4 Union.

The union says the department has responded to roughly 25,400 medic and fire calls in 2017. Last year, crews responded to 24,270. The reason? Van Haalen says it's due to a growing city.

"Des Moines' population obviously isn't going down . We've got new housing, a lot of stuff going on downtown, and the city encourages a lot of visitors."

He adds that nearly 80% of the calls for service made are medical-related calls.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security awarded a SAFER grant to the department to add 13 firefighter positions. Once those firefighters are trained, they will help ease some of the pressures of the current staffing levels.

Meanwhile, the state is on track to have one of deadliest years in more than two decades when it comes to fires. The State Fire Marshall's Office confirms 38 people have died in fires this year.  Officials expect that number to rise to more than 50 once the remaining autopsies are completed. In many of the cases, officials say the homes were not equipped with working smoke detectors.