On March 7, newly hired Fire Chief Jack Snyder presented the Winters Fire Department’s annual report to the City Council, presenting to them some of the department’s work and successes in 2022, as well as plans for this year.
Snyder, officially sworn in on Feb. 7, marked his first month by saying “2022 was a great year for the department, but it definitely had its trials and tribulations and challenges we faced, but ultimately another successful year.” Snyder reported that the department’s organizational staffing chart is “back to full staff” as well as noting that “volunteer staff is still going strong” as well.
Snyder provided a few statistics regarding the WFD’s work in 2022. Calls for service increased in 2022 from 791 in 2021 to 959 this year, up from 850 in 2020, with Snyder calling 2022 “a record-setting year for us” and likely a trend that will continue.
“People are calling 911 a lot more to get the help that they need, and I think a lot of that stems from them not calling 911 during COVID,” Snyder said.
Mayor Bill Biasi inquired if the increase in calls was related to the new homes being built, which Snyder said was possible, but that with current data “it’s hard to tell, we’ll see with next year’s data.”
Snyder also presented average WFD response times to calls, which improved markedly in the 2020–2022 period. Average response times in 2020 were five minutes and 16 seconds within Winters and 11 minutes and 45 seconds in the fire district. Then in 2021, the average response times improved to four minutes and 23 seconds in Winters and eight minutes and 50 seconds in the district. Finally, last year the average response time improved to three minutes and 51 seconds and seven minutes and 52 seconds for the city and district, respectively.
“The standard for the response time within the city is four and a half minutes, and we are exceeding that now, and we’re very proud of that,” commending the fire team for its efficiency, which Snyder called “a testament to the people that we have on staff because they truly care about this community…and this is a direct reflection of that.”
Snyder also noted the extensive training WFD personnel undertook last year, totaling 1,027 training hours in 2022, including training in “structure fires to EMS, to tech rescue, car extrication, and mentoring our young volunteer firefighters” all on top of the administrative and on-call work they did.
Though 2022 was comparatively quiet in regards to fires in the state, WFD firefighters still undertook a number of missions across California, most notably with the Mosquito Fire in Placer and El Dorado counties. But Snyder warned that this year likely won’t be as quiet “based on the weather that we’re getting and the growth that we’re going to see, probably it’s going to be a very busy fire season.”
Partnerships and community engagement are key tenets of the WFD’s work, and Snyder highlighted the Solano Community College Fire Academy and Benicia Scouts Outreach as particular programs the department has undertaken.
Snyder also presented that the Insurance Service Office (ISO) placed Winters in an ISO Three, which he clarified means “lower insurance rates for your homeowners’ insurance and commercial insurance. And I can tell you, an ISO Three for a department like this is unfathomable; ISO Three is no easy accomplishment, especially for the staffing we have.” He added that an ISO Two is “very attainable within the next three to five years.”
Goals for 2023 include continuing to provide quality service, strategic planning for recruitment and staffing, continuing fire prevention and planning, securing grant opportunities, and replacing equipment like the ladder truck and water tender.
Snyder thanked Interim Chief Matthew Schechla and other WFD staff for keeping the department going in the transition.