Members of Altona/Rhineland Emergency Services (ARES) responded to a higher-than-average number of calls for service in 2022.
According to a year-end report filed by Fire Chief Greg Zimmerman, the department was dispatched 86 times. That's over the annual average of between 65 and 70 calls.
"We're very fortunate that with all of the calls, none of them were major," he explained.
A majority of those 86 calls, 21 in fact, were qualified as 'other' which included carbon monoxide alerts and tree branches in power lines. Tied for second were motor vehicle incidents/fire and fire alarms, ringing in at 16. Additionally, members responded to 11 structure fires, 7 medical calls and 7 false alarms, 4 mutual aid requests, 3 rescues and 1 grass fire. Two of the mutual aid requests, noted Zimmerman, were for the department's water tanker. Another was for a situation at Miller Environmental where ARES provided its ladder truck, pumper, water tanker and its compressed air foam truck.
The foam truck, added to the fleet in 2022, has proven to be quite the game-changer.
Not only does the system use 10 per cent of the water to put out a fire, it has also improved the department's response times. The truck only fits two people, meaning it can be deployed sooner and allow the first-arriving firefighters to do more in the early minutes of the incident.
"We're finding the foam truck is on the road as I'm still driving to the call, the truck is usually a minute behind me. We've shaved about five or six minutes off our response time," said Zimmerman.
Also in 2022, the department purchased Hydra Fusion struts, ramping it up to heavy rescue capabilities.
"(They) are struts that have hydraulics in them," explained the Chief. "So they're not only struts to stabilize something by they can actually lift it. Our Rescue truck is now more of a heavy rescue truck, and we're now prepared to deal with not only regular vehicles but also highway tractors, train cars, trench rescue or structural collapse. We've really improved."
2022 also say the Department celebrate it's 100th year of operation. A community banquet was held in November.
Meantime, Zimmerman says 2023 will be more of a training year for the department, which has averaged about 30 members for the past few years.
"This year, we're going to meet the Fire Commissioner's requirements. We'll train our members up to Level II, and then the officers will all receive the proper training to be qualified. They're excellent officers now, but we just have to dot the i's and cross the t's."