With the recent growth in construction projects and population growth in the city of Wetumpka, the Wetumpka Fire Department is rolling out a multi-pronged community outreach program.

“With all the business and growth that has come to Wetumpka in our downtown area and surrounding areas that keeps the Wetumpka Fire Department growing,” Wetumpka fire marshal Ashley Payton said. 

He said the department is making an effort to speak with 75 business owners every month and inspect the owners’ buildings. Payton expects WFD will reach every business at least once in 2020.

“We want to work with the owners to make sure they are success and all the safety factors are covered,” he said. “We want to be out there building relationships. We are not out there to give fines. We want people to get educated on safety.”

Payton said mixed occupancy buildings are rather new to Wetumpka which gives the department a new subject for its younger inspectors to learn about.

“We’ve see it in Montgomery and now in Wetumpka,” Payton said. “You might have a business on the bottom and apartments on top. With that, you have to have different codes. That is one thing we are doing is training our younger inspectors to inspect these unique buildings.”

He said the business building inspections are also intended to keep firefighters safe if they have to answer a call at a business.

“It’s about the firefighters being safe in these structures,” Payton said.

Payton said the department is close to forming partnerships with businesses and organizations in the community so WFD can educate the public on risk reduction.

“The phrase fire prevention was coined years ago,” he said. “We are looking into a community risk reduction approach. We are wanting to get out there and teach safety in a lot of different areas. We have big goals. It will just take small steps to get us there.”

He said the department’s outreach decisions are based on data. 

“We look at data and we know we need to teach water safety here,” he said. “The data is driving what we are doing with our community risk reduction plans.”

Payton expects the 2020 Census will help the department grow.

“I’m curious to see where the census ends up,” he said. “I think it will show why our numbers of calls have gone up.”

He also indicated WFD has future plans to apply for grants that will help fund the department’s 2020 efforts.