Perham fire, police departments a little bit busier in 2016
Community growth continues to result in increased calls to the Perham fire and police departments.
The more people there are, the more activity there is, officials say, and that means more chances for incidents like fires, accidents and other emergencies in town.
The fire and police departments' 2016 annual reports show a slight uptick in the number of calls for service to each department, continuing a trend that reveals a slow and steady rise in those numbers over the past several years.
The Perham Police Department responded to 2,395 calls in 2016, up from 2,371 the year before, and 2,200 the year before that.
Of note in 2016 were 141 reports of theft or fraud (up from 80 the year before), 78 accidents (down from 89), 75 burglaries (this number includes burglary alarm calls), 43 reports of vandalism (up from 40), 10 vehicle thefts (up from three), six drug violations, two missing persons and two predatory offender registrations.
Dangerous and violent crimes included 29 reports of harassment or stalking, 14 assaults, 17 domestic assaults, 10 cases of child abuse or neglect, six sexual assaults and four terroristic threats.
The bulk of calls were for more minor incidents, such as traffic warnings, 911 hang-up calls and assistance to other nearby law enforcement and rescue agencies.
By the numbers, the top five categories to the department in 2016 were: traffic warnings, with 226, assistance to the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department, 160, special enforcement warnings, 154, theft/fraud reports, 141, and traffic stop citations, 136.
At the Perham Fire Department, firefighters responded to two more calls in 2016 than they did in 2015, with 147 calls last year compared to 145 the year before. This breaks last year's record for the second-highest number of calls the department has ever responded to in a year. The all-time high record was set in 2013, when there was a spike in calls, at 163.
The nature of the calls didn't change much, compared to past years. Most were related to rescues, minor incidents and calls for mutual aid to other departments in nearby communities. There were 13 structure fires last year, down one from the year before, and just three grass fires—down from 13 the year before. There were also 16 vehicle fires and 29 rescue calls.
The majority of calls (92 of the total 147) came from within Perham city limits and Perham Township, with a notable number coming from Rush Lake and Gorman townships and the rest from surrounding townships and other areas. On average, 16 firefighters responded to a call.
Perham Fire Chief Mark Schmidt said "construction of apartment buildings and businesses" brings more people to the Perham area, "which results in more activity for the fire department to deal with."
It also results in different types of calls and therefore new trainings for department members to take part in as they get called to different types of rescue situations.
Schmidt reminds property owners to make sure they always have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed: "We would rather come out early to your place and look into troubled smoke detectors and/or check out a funny smell and, if it's nothing, no big worries, than later when it's a roaring blaze and you lose your property to fire."