Firefighters just missed setting a new record for call volume last year, according to an annual report obtained by the Enterprise.
They took 484 emergency calls in 2016, two short of the all-time record 2015 total.
The busy year was in large part due to a 38 percent increase in medical assist calls.
“The biggest increase we’ve seen over the past 10 years is the number of medical calls we go on,” said assistant fire chief Bill Brown. “(There are) a lot of car crashes and a lot of medical incidents. Our fires generally stay the same, around 20 a year, but every year it seems like the vehicle crashes and medical incidents keep going up.”
Brown recalled how by the end of July his crews had already turned out 286 times and were on pace to set a new record. A mild winter offered some relief, he said.
There were 84 calls to car crashes in 2016, which stayed in line with yearly totals in the past decade. Last year’s 21 building fires was a slight drop from 27 in 2015.
“We didn’t have any sort of large building fires like Carter Lumber in 2015,” said chief Mike Wetherbee. “There were a lot of good intent calls, which are when someone thinks they smell gas or see smoke coming from a neighbor’s house but it turns out to be nothing. There were structure fires but nothing really big — I wouldn’t say minor fires, but nothing huge or any industrial or commercial-type fires.”
The WFD logged 183 medical assist calls in 2016 and 130 the previous year. From 2008 to 2014, that number hovered between 79 and 89, according to the district’s annual report.
Wetherbee and the WFD board are weighing a proposal from the South Lorain County Ambulance District for firefighters to act as the primary “third person” on medical calls along with on-hand supervisors. In December, the SLCAD board approved cutting its ambulance crews from three to two EMTs in what it described as an effort to lower response times.
Acting as the primary third person would create an additional 80 to 100 calls for the WFD and add $8,000 to $10,000 to its expenses annually. The district expects to bring in $744,000 and spend $721,350 in 2017, Wetherbee said.
“Our board is kind of reluctant at this point,” he said. “They’d like the ambulance board to come to us and talk to our board. I’ve sent a notice over letting them know what we discussed at our meeting.”
When speaking at a January SLCAD meeting, Wetherbee let it be known his department would never deny service for the backup calls it has always helped out on.
“I can do no more than try and figure out the numbers and take them to my board,” he said. “There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered before we’re able to take that step. We want to do anything we can to help out. We’re not greedy or money hungry, but doing this would be a hit to our budget. We can’t be blind to that fact.”
He said the fire district board believes costs SLCAD will avoid by cutting its crew sizes should not be passed on to the WFD.
“There’s going to come a point eventually where we’re going to need to be compensated,” he said. “It’s money coming out of our budget. It’s payroll money, wear and tear on apparatus, and that stuff needs to be considered.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Wellington firefighters went on 484 calls in 2016, two fewer than the previous year. Medical calls, however, increased from 130 in 2015 to 183 last year.