The Hot Springs Civil Service Commission authorized the fire department to use a new written exam for applicants last week.
Standards and Associates will be the new testing vendor. Fire Chief Ed Davis told the commission the department may use the company's promotional exams, too, depending on how well the entry-level exams do at identifying candidates for hire. The police department uses Standards and Associates for written exams given to applicants and officers applying for promotion.
Police Chief Chris Chapmond told the commission the state Association of Chiefs of Police endorsed the company as the model for police and first responder testing.
Davis told the commission the new test will allow the fire department to cast a wider net for applicants.
"We find it's going to be a pretty decent instrument for the fact it really emphasizes listening skills," he said.
"We think that will help a lot of people, maybe folks that weren't quite as academically gifted when they were in school.
"I think this might help to even the playing field for some people. We also feel like it fits the culture of the fire service really well, because it does emphasize listening skills. That's a really important component of the job," Davis said.
Davis included the following items in his monthly report to the commission:
• Firefighters helped numerous commercial property owners with sprinkler systems that froze during last month's cold snap. Hot Springs Memorial Field reported low temperatures of 1 below zero Dec. 23, 3 degrees Dec. 24 and 15 degrees on Christmas.
"We turned off a lot of systems and saved a lot of damage," Davis said.
City Manager Bill Burrough told the Hot Springs Board of Directors last week that leaks from broken service lines required the city's two treatment plants to produce more than 20 million gallons a day to maintain pressure across the regional water system.
About 14 million gallons is the average daily production for December, he said.
• Davis said the fire department saved more than $43 million of property from fire damage last year. Almost $2 million was reported in structure fire losses.
"I'm just so proud of the job they do on the suppression operations," he said.
The department reported an average response time of just over four minutes last month, the ninth month responses averaged fewer than five minutes last year. Responses took more than five minutes on average in January, July and September. The latter had the longest times, averaging more than six minutes.
Davis has said a new station south of the King Expressway would shorten responses in Lake Hamilton-adjacent areas the city board annexed in 2016 and 2018. He presented a plan for the new station in November to the committee Burrough appointed to prioritize the city's unfunded capital projects. The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the board later this year.
• Davis said the new tilled aerial device the department showed off at City Hall earlier this month will go into service in February.
Firefighters have been training on the $2 million, 107-foot truck manufactured by Pierce Fire Apparatus of Wisconsin. Davis said it flows water at a faster rate than the 1990s model it's replacing.
"We set it up yesterday, and it easily flowed 1,200 gallons per minute," he said. "It's amazing the amount of water coming out the other end of it. It's a deluge. The current truck flows about 950.
"It's a beautiful piece of equipment. It rides much better than the '95 truck. It articulates faster. It sets up faster and certainly is a more stable platform."