Bemidji Fire Department seeing increase in calls, challenge for staff

The Bemidji Fire Department responded to more than 1,000 calls for service over 2022.

According to the annual report, this represents an 18.6 percent increase since 2019.

About 600 of those calls were for emergency medicals and rescues, with nearly 100 fire responses.

An anticipated challenge going forward for the fire department is staffing.

The department includes the fire chief and deputy, seven career firefighters, and 48 paid-on-call firefighters.

Recruitment and retention for paid-on-call firefighters continue to be a major challenge to fire service across the state, due to significant time demands and required monthly training.

Bemidji Fire Station 1 on 5th Street is also in deteriorating condition.

Chief Justin Sherwood reports that the 51-year-old building has some cracks in its foundation and inadequate space and facilities for its dormitories, in addition to numerous other structural challenges.

The Bemidji City Council is currently reviewing options for a possible combined Fire Station 1 & City Hall, as both aging buildings have a number of various deficiencies, highlighted during the flooding last spring.

Larissa Donovan was the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016, through July 2023. She covered all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University. You can follow along with Larissa's live tweets of meetings and events on Twitter!

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