Fire, police departments reflect on amount of calls

Pullman Fire Department received 789 fire calls, 2,150 medical calls last year

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COLE QUINN

Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston said it is too early to tell based on the current number of calls the department has received whether 2022 will be less busy than 2021.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen reporter

The Pullman Fire Department had its busiest year in over a decade in 2021, receiving 2,939 total calls.

Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston said the department received an increase in both fire and medical calls.

“We received 789 fire calls and 2,150 medical calls last year,” he said. “The year before, we received 698 fire calls and 1,610 medical calls.”

Despite 2021 being a record-breaking year in terms of calls to the department, 2020 was a record low year; Heston said the department received the lowest number of calls total since 2013.

Heston said this trend can partially be explained by the fact that Pullman had a much lower population in 2020, with many WSU students quarantined in their hometowns because of COVID-19.

“The main reason was all the repercussions from COVID,” he said. “No Cougar football games — that was a major reason.”

Heston said another major reason for the increase in calls to the department last year is the population growth in Pullman.

“The city population growth has been gradual over time,” he said. “How many students are able to come to WSU affects the number of calls as well.”

Based on the current number of calls in 2022, Heston said he believes the amount will slightly increase from 2021.

“The population’s going to increase,” he said. “Not a huge increase, but the trends are most likely going to continue.”

The Pullman Police Department also experienced an increased number of calls, although it was not a record year for them as it was for the fire department.

Pullman PD Cmdr. Jake Opgenorth said overall the department had more calls in 2021 than 2020, but fewer calls than the years before that.

“We had 546 noise complaints in 2021,” Opgenorth said. “We had 762 in 2019 and 848 in 2018.”

Although Opgenorth attributes COVID-19 to lessening activity in recent years, he said it is likely a combination of multiple elements.

“I’ve heard different theories,” Opgenorth said. “I think for 2021, we were returning to normal, but they were still lower than pre-COVID numbers. I anticipate we’re gonna see this trend continue.”

Despite the overall lower numbers of calls to the police department, Opgenorth said some statistics, like domestic dispute calls, have stayed mostly the same in the past few years.

Opgenorth said the highest number of calls throughout the year were from the WSU campus, which is standard for the police station.

“We’ve always had a higher number of calls to campus,” Opgenorth said. “That’s to be expected. There’s a higher population in that area.”