USA – MATTOON — The Mattoon Fire Department handled an increase in calls for service in 2020, including the Mattoon Christian Church arson and other major structure fires, while facing challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fire Chief Jeff Hilligoss said the department responded to 1,059 calls for service in 2020, adding that crews had an average response time of 4 minutes, 2 seconds. He said this was an increase from 1,032 calls for service in 2019.
“It’s too early to see if our trends are due to the pandemic,” Hilligoss said, adding that he will keep watch for possible COVID-19 trends as 2021 continues.
Hilligoss said the pandemic did put a damper on the department’s public education activities. He said firefighters were not able to get into the schools to do public education details like they have done in the past. The chief said firefighters were able to visit several school classes for outdoor show and tell activities with children during Fire Prevention Week in October.
The pandemic also has prevented firefighters from doing annual emergency preplanning tours of businesses.
“We look forward to the day when restrictions from the pandemic are loosened so we can get back on schedule with these walkthroughs,” Hilligoss said.
The department’s total calls for service in 2020 included 98 fires ranging from many small cooking and vehicle fires to a few major structure incidents, causing a total of $4.15 million in damage.