A record 547 calls were handled by Wellington firefighters last year, far surpassing the previous high mark of 486 set in 2016.
The number is highlighted in a report released Jan. 31, which shows calls totaling 364 in 2013 and steadily rising ever since.
While responses to crashes and medical calls remained consistent with 2016’s tally, recorded structure fires jumped from 21 to 45 this past year.
Among them was September’s large factory blaze on Depot Street.
“As far as pure heat and ferocity, I’d say the fire in September is the worst one I’ve ever dealt with in my time here. It was a scary situation for everyone involved,” said assistant fire chief Bill Brown.
After fluctuating between 89 and 79 between 2008 and 2014, medical calls jumped to 130 in 2015 and have increased each year since to 187 in 2017.
The district responded to nine fatal crashes last year. In the first half of 2017, medical calls increased by 84 percent but that swell began to taper off after August, Brown said.
“Our responses went down, but that could be different over at the ambulance district,” he said. “Almost half of our run volume, 271, consisted of crashes and medical calls. I think we saw seven deadly crashes in 2016. All in all, medical calls increased by about 46 percent for us.”
“The year started off pretty heavy and it seemed to be snowballing,” Brown said. “We just didn’t seem to respond to many later in the year.”
Revenue for 2017 at the district came in at $825,989 with $600,688 in expenses. The district’s 2.75-mill levy generates $764,436 and costs voters $144 per $150,000 of property valuation annually.
“We spent about $100,000 on new air tanks this year,” said fire chief Mike Wetherbee. “We tried to get a $125,000 federal grant for it but it didn’t come through. We needed those packs to get us current with the latest standards.”
Other improvements and fixes cited include $20,000 in repairs to brick at the district’s Kelly Street building as well as $10,000 for a new fire hose and computer upgrades.
Training on how to work through tragic calls and post-traumatic stress that often results will continue this year with a joint exercise planned for firefighters, Wellington police, and South Lorain County Ambulance personnel some time in the next couple of months.
“Those things are something you never want to have to see,” Wetherbee said. “It’s part of our job that we hope no one else has to go through. You can’t pick and choose your calls, I guess. You figure out how to deal with it after the fact. You feel for so many different people, the families. You think of the effect it has on you but also on them for the rest of their lives.”
“There’s been talk about including spouses in this upcoming training because they’re the ones who often see the worst of what we go through after a bad situation,” said Brown. “We had some calls that were just over the top and terrible in the past couple of years. I know (police chief Tim) Barfield has been actively trying to put this together and it’s very important to all of us.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.