The Bozeman Fire Department responded to a record number of calls last year, while also working to increase training for firefighters, help improve the city’s insurance rating and plan for the future.

That’s the message Chief Josh Waldo had for city commissioners while he presented the department’s 2017 annual report at Monday night’s City Commission meeting.

According to the report, last year, the department responded to 4,696 incidents, ranging from medical calls and fires, to vehicle crashes and hazmat responses.

That total was up nearly 9 percent from 2016 when the department responded to 4,316 incidents, and up a whopping 60 percent from the 2,936 incident responses in 2011.

The report noted that there was also a fairly drastic increase in overlapping incidents, where the department is responding to more than one incident at the same time.

Last year, there were 1,682 overlapping incidents, up from the previous year’s 806 overlapping incidents.

“We saw a pretty good jump,” Waldo said.

The report also pointed out that firefighters received an increased amount of training from previous years. In 2017, the department logged 13,715 hours of training, a 63 percent increase from 2016. Waldo credited the increased training hours to an online training system the department implemented last year.

The hours greatly exceeded the national standard of 4,000 set by the Insurance Service Office and the National Fire Protection Association, the report pointed out.

“Not only did we finally pass that benchmark, but we exceeded it,” Waldo said. “This really goes to the staff and their dedication.”

Response times were a bit up, Waldo told commissioners Monday. For emergency calls, the average response time is 6 minutes 2 seconds, while for non-emergency calls it is 7 minutes 1 second.

Waldo cited increasing traffic makes it “a little harder to get around.”

Waldo also highlighted some of the department’s accomplishments in the last year. That included an improved Insurance Service Office rating.

Last spring, the department was evaluated on staffing, response capabilities, training and community risk reduction efforts. Also evaluated was the water department and the 911 center.

Cities are graded on a scale of Class 1 to Class 10 with the lowest number representing the best rating. After years of Bozeman placing in Class 3, Bozeman was bumped up to a Class 2.

That higher class offers potential relief in insurance premiums for residents and business owners, and also can be a valuable recruitment tool for future businesses and developments, Waldo said.

Last year, the department also updated the Fire Master Plan, which hadn’t been updated in over a decade.

That plan includes 42 recommendations after evaluating the department’s response, training, equipment, apparatus, station locations, inspection programs, operational procedures and other items to make recommendations on how to improve the department’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Other accomplishments Waldo noted in the report included getting a new radio system to improve communications between first responders, getting new self-contained breathing apparatuses and thermal imaging cameras for firefighters and receiving a $58,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get gear for wildland firefighting.

In 2018, Waldo said the department is focusing on the city’s public safety facility, a proposed $37.4 million building on Rouse Avenue housing city police, courts and a fire station that will be before voters this November.

“That’s a big project in front of all of us,” Waldo told commissioners.

Whitney Bermes can be reached at wbermes@dailychronicle.com or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.

Whitney Bermes covers cops and courts for the Chronicle.

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