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Local News

State Fire Marshal Warns About Thanksgiving Day Cooking Fires

Kentucky State Fire Marshal William Swope is warning residents about leaving food unattended while cooking over the holidays.

The National Fire Protection Association lists Thanksgiving as one of the leading days for home cooking fires. State officials are specifically discouraging the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil, which often lead to devastating burns and other serious injuries.

Swope says the danger is increased because the equipment is readily available to amateur cooks.

“Everyone needs to be extremely careful with using the fryers. Frying turkeys has become very popular within the state and across the country for that matter. You’re dealing with hot grease that can cause a fire very easily and remember, if you do have that type of grease fire that you cannot extinguish that with water,” he says.

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Local News

Merger Report Recommends Metro Government Consider In-Depth Review

The government consulting firm that released last week’s Metro Government merger report says the city may benefit from a more in-depth audit.

Public Works, LLC came into Metro Government’s $30,000 grant-funded project with an open mind, said senior consultant Marion Reitz. After 100 hours of research, the report affirmed many issues already being discussed in some Merger 2.0 Task Force subcommittees. But the report should be used as just one of the tools to direct Metro Government to areas it should study further, said Reitz.

Certain topics subcommittees discuss are not new. Fire and EMS talk about whether a merger is necessary, solid waste knows its current system allows five different waste collectors to drive all over the county in a less than efficient way. This is why Mayor Greg Fischer appointed the task force.

The report goes further to recommend the county consider merging fire and EMS, re-working its solid waste system by re-contracting and creating more competition among service providers, and keeping better city and county records.

The report should be considered a positive thing, despite recommending the consideration of a fire and EMS merger, said Jeffersontown Fire Chief Randy Lawson. And he said he hopes that the fire and EMS subcommittee can have dialog about what the data shows.

“And we can ask intelligent questions because we’ve had some time to look at it and then say, hey we really think this information is useful let’s build on it or we think this one has a flaw let’s go correct those numbers and we could use it to,” said Lawson.

It has been difficult to collect data on fire and EMS, organize it, and then determine how the two agencies can operate more efficiently. That’s the issue Lawson brings up after determining that the report should be considered one of many pieces of information used to make recommendations to the full task force and then finally to Fischer.

The report further compares Jefferson County suburban and urban fire departments and its EMS to the Nashville, Davidson County merged system, which covers a similar size population. Davidson County spends around $23 million less, the report shows. But many members of the fire and EMS subcommittee have said it’s difficult to compare counties and each should be considered independently.

Among other recommendations, the report says Metro Government should consider a “performance review”, where an outside firm could get into the weeds of how city services are operating, said Reitz.

“We go in and we challenge we what services are being provided, why, why they’re begin provided the way there are and if there are ways to do them more efficiently,” she said.

A performance review is a non-monetary audit that dissects each Metro Government service in depth by working closely with employees in certain service areas, said Reitz. Unlike the current report, there are strong reasons and data backing up recommendations from a performance review, she said.

“There’s really a blue print for what needs to happen in order to achieve the savings. In those instances we have a very high percentage of implementations of recommendations,” she said.

Performance reviews can range in cost from $200,000 to more than $1 million, but it could save Metro Government three to five percent of the general fund, said Reitz.

With less than a month before the full panel is expected to make its recommendations to Fischer, subcommittees will be trying to pull together months of information and data to show how the county has operated since its 2003 merger.

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Local News

Fire and EMS Continue to Look for Common Ground in Subcommittee

Louisville’s Merger 2.0 Task Force subcommittee on fire and EMS met on Tuesday. As the Oct. 1 deadline for recommendations nears, the two departments are struggling to find common ground.

The subcommittee meeting was at times contentious. Fire and EMS have different opinions on how to proceed with the conversation about possible changes to either agency.

Fire officials said they want to look at data and different models that might shed some light on how to be more efficient. EMS said the subcommittee doesn’t have the time or the information to make any major recommendations, such as a merger.

“It might be reasonable to ask an external group to come in who has got serious expertise in this. Everybody here has expertise but this is a pretty time consuming project,” said Dr. Neal Richmond, the director of Louisville Metro EMS.

Richmond said it’s a difficult project to take on with the amount of time and resources the subcommittee has.

Both departments agree that public safety and patient care is a top priority. But the logistics and decisions behind how to operate was sometimes at odds. Members from both sides did recommend improving communication and suggested offering similar technology to all departments so that accountability was consistent.

Each subcommittee member will prepare five suggestions for both fire and EMS at the next meeting on Aug. 23. They will also continue to review data and information, and search for areas where the departments can be more efficient.

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Local News

Fire and EMS Discuss Efficiency and Effectiveness

The Louisville Merger 2.0 fire and EMS subcommittee met for over two hours on Monday. It began with a presentation by Louisville Metro EMS.

It highlighted the agency’s use of new technology and its increased revenue over the past few years. But the agency still relies on fire departments to be first responders, said Walter Lage, chief of Anchorage Fire and EMS.

“EMS needs help from the fire districts and the fire districts need financial help. Now can we get the two of those together I don’t know,” he said.

The subcommittee discussed how both fire and EMS could benefit by sharing technology and saving time and resources, but neither side would say what it would recommend to the mayor.

The subcommittee meets again on Aug. 9. The mayor has asked for recommendations for Merger 2.0 by Oct. 2.

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Local News

Officials Investigating Cause Of Paoli Fire

Authorities continue their investigation into the Saturday morning fire that destroyed a portion of the historic town square in Paoli, Indiana.

The fire engulfed several buildings, which housed apartments and businesses.

It took more than a dozen fire departments to bring the flames under control and depleted the water supply in the Orange County town.

No one was injured.

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Environment Local News

Fort Knox Fires Smoldering, Air Quality Improves

Wildfires that began at Fort Knox last week have died down after blanketing much of Louisville with smoke.

The fires burned a wooded training area at the fort, and could have been caused by tracer bullets, which contain burning phosphorous. The subsequent smoke and ash blew northward to Louisville, where Air Pollution Control District spokesperson Matt Stull says an air quality alert was issued for the weekend.

“Typically in the summertime when we have high levels of ozone, we issue those alerts when we get into the unhealthy for sensitive groups range, but this weekend we were a step above that,” he says.

Stull says rain Monday has restored air quality. Fort Knox spokesperson Anne Torphy says crews from around the area are monitoring the fires, which are now smoldering.

“We’re really at the mercy of the weather,” she says. “If it continues to rain, that will help tremendously, but if we get more dry weather or if winds kick up, then we’ll have to re-assess the situation.”

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Local News

Fire Prevention Month Begins, Fire Deaths Down

City and suburban firefighters Tuesday kicked off Fire Prevention Month, and firefighters again used the ceremony to stress the importance of basic home safety.

Louisville Fire Chief Greg Frederick says there have been hundreds of fires in the last year in local homes that did not have functioning smoke detectors. He says that number is unacceptable, especially since the city fire department and the suburban fire districts provide smoke detectors for free to homeowners.

“With all of that, with all those programs we have to come out and ensure you have a detector, it is very frustrating to know that we still have homes in the community that are still unprotected,” he says.

Four civilians and one firefighter have died in fires in Louisville this year. There were sixteen total deaths last year, all civilians.

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Local News

Firefighters Remind Public To Change Smoke Detector Batteries

Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend, and Louisville firefighters say that means it’s time to change smoke detector batteries.

Sergeant Salvador Melendez says time changes are the best opportunities to replace batteries because they come every six months, which is the minimum life expectancy of many 9-volt batteries.

“That basically ensures that you’re changing your battery before the life expectancy of that battery has expired, and thus you’re always protected,” he says.

Melendez says it may also be beneficial for families to review their home fire escape plan.

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Local News

Resolution Takes Step Toward Merged Fire Districts

Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson has authored a resolution that would take the first steps toward a unified fire department in Louisville.

Johnson’s resolution asks the state legislature to commission a study on the feasibility and cost of merging the 18 suburban fire districts into the Louisville Fire Department.

“We’d have better management with one person in charge and some other people across the whole county,” he says. “Like we do with the police department, it’d make more sense and probably be cheaper.”

The Democratic councilman’s resolution comes amidst talk of tax increases to fund suburban fire districts, and management controversies in two districts. Republican Councilman Kelly Downard opposes the measure.

“Logic says that that’s a wonderful idea,” he says. “I say no. There are willfully different methods of operation and I think that’s left best to the people who do it, rather than the people who observe it, to make those decisions.”

The resolution will be introduced at Thursday’s council meeting.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Kentucky Center Dealing With Repairs After Fire

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts officials are working this week to repair its electrical system after it was damaged in a weekend fire. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

The fire occurred Saturday in an electrical room in the garage and resulted in the evacuation of 108 production and audience members during a performance of Improvapalooza 10 in the Mex Theater.

The Center’s David Holland says there was some smoke in the lobby and an elevator shaft. He says most of the power is on now in the building.

“Power is still out in the main theaters here, in Bomhard and Whitney halls,” he says. “And it is going to take some time to get the electrical equipment from the manufacturer in place to repair that.”

Holland says all the damage was contained in one electrical room.

“To the public’s eye, there’s no damage to the center whatsoever,” he says. “There was a good deal of smoke. There was some in the lobby and in one of the elevator shafts, but not enough to leave anything behind that the public is going to notice.”

Holland says the Center has ordered equipment to fix the electrical system but doesn’t know if it will arrive in time for this weekend’s performances of the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He says the Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.