July 23rd, 2024

Firefighters introduce annual report on emergency calls

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 12, 2024.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

City fire fighters are now meeting a response-time target set 10 years ago, according to a first-of it’s kind annual report from the emergency response service.

Fire chief Chad Eakens also told a council committee on Monday that the Medicine Hat Fire Service has already flown one initial flight in an agreement with HALO helicopters to put search and rescue divers on the scene of call.

Councillors on the committee said the “2023 Year-in-review” report shows the department is operating well and should be appreciated.

Along with an administrative measures, Eakins outlined that operations, the department also beat its target response time over the course of 1,400 emergency calls in 2023.

The council-set goal is six minutes 20 seconds from alarm to having an engine on scene – equal to a national standard – but the department was 14 seconds faster, on average, last year at six minutes six seconds.

“We’ve been chasing this for about a decade with station relocation and other initiatives, and am’ extremely proud to say… that we’re exceeding the standard now,” said Eakin.

“Fire doubles every 30 seconds… so response time is really critical to saving buildings and lives.”

The department responded to a total of 43 residential and 10 commercial structure fires in 2023. Property values involved total an estimated $56.6 million, while only $2.05 million was lost.

Out of 4,425 incidents, 1,521 were safety checks, 615 where medical first response and 226 involved hazardous materials. Other calls included inspections, investigations, public education activities and four were part of mutual aid investigations with neighbouring jurisdictions.

That included the revelation that the department dispatched an initial dive team by HALO helicopter to partake in a search and rescue.

“It’s significant,” said Eakin. “We’ve flown one mission so far and we’ve been successful.”

In 2023 the department also hired for 10 positions, including eight crew to cut down on overtime costs, brought on two more to fill senior positions after retirements.

“It’s the largest hiring that we’ve seen since 2004,” said Eakins, stating the succession planning and promotions are a focus as a wave of retirement is expected.

“People don’t understand the multitude of roles that he fire service plays until they encounter them,” said Coun. Robert Dumanowski

“We don’t want to encounter them, but when we do, they’re swift and professional.”

Among other points in the report, the department is also blending in new technology at the dispatch system to modernize and accept text and other date from cellphones.

The junction of Highway 3 and 1 will be the final intersection in the city to have traffic signal pre-emption equipment installed after a multi-year program.

The department will also celebrate its 125th Anniversary in 2025.

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