​​​​Fire data tool helping Bemidji stop smoke before it turns into a fire

​Dec. 4, 2023

​​​​​​​Two firefighters standing by a ladder going up to second-floor window.The Bemidji Fire Department was prepared for this downtown fire thanks to the Fire Risk Assessment Tool developed by UrbanLogiq and the State Fire Marshal division.

As fire departments across Minnesota try to do more for their communities with fewer and limited resources, data provided by UrbanLogiq's Fire Risk Assessment Tool has proven invaluable.

The Bemidji Fire Department knows firsthand how the data can be put into practice. In the past five years, Bemidji's population has grown by 3.5 percent, and its fire department has responded to 25 percent more calls. Meanwhile, the Bemidji Fire Department's staffing levels have stayed the same since 2005.

That means it is more important than ever to prevent fires before they start, according to Bemidji Fire Chief Justin Sherwood.

“UrbanLogiq gives me some insight and historical data to try and help plan for the future and be proactive, instead of always reactive," Sherwood said. “It puts the data into words and visuals that I can take in at a glance and quickly put into action."

The database reaches as far back as 2004 and draws on open-source and demographic data. It includes information on fire risk indicators like smoking rates, population density and dangerous behaviors. UrbanLogiq can break down the data by any type of area. Areas of interest can be council districts, neighborhoods, city blocks or any other defined territory.

​​​​​​​​An appartment bedroom destroyed by fire.
The fire in downtown Bemidji caused by an electrical malfunction gutted an apartment above a store.

For example, data from the Fire Risk Assessment Tool told Sherwood that aging electrical within downtown Bemidji buildings was a potential danger. So, it was no surprise to Sherwood when his firefighters responded to three fires in that area over the past year.

Sherwood's department, which serves about 100,000 people, was one of the first to adopt the data-driven tool provided to Minnesota fire chiefs one year ago through a partnership with UrbanLogiq and our State Fire Marshal (SFM) division. The tool uses data to help fire chiefs map fires, pinpoint what is likely to cause them and predict where they will occur in the future.

"It's been incredibly rewarding to see our collaboration with the State Fire Marshal division come to life," said UrbanLogiq CEO Mark Masongsong​. “Together, we're providing Minnesota's fire professionals a tool that's empowering them with data insights to help save more lives. This team effort highlights the strength of combining expertise and technology to make an impact in public safety."

Fire chiefs can use these data points to:

  • ​Identify high-risk populations and communities.
  • Identify staffing needs at fire stations based on the numbers and types of fires.
  • Determine which neighborhoods need education about fire prevention.

Sherwood uses his expertise and the tool's predictions to figure out where to focus his department's educational efforts, as well, focusing more on preventing electrical and smoking-related fires, rather than the formerly more-common cooking fires.

The tool is easy to use and will continue to be expanded and refined as time goes on and data continues to be collected. Fire chiefs can go in time and time again to look at localized data tailored to their community's unique needs, populations and changing trends, which means they will be more prepared to prevent fires before they even happen.​