The annual report for the Winkler Fire Department (WFD) shows city firefighters responded to 220 emergency calls in 2022, an overall increase
of 27% from the previous year.
Fire Chief Richard Paetzold says it was a record year.
"We had more motor vehicle accidents and again that was definitely weather-related this year. As well as we have our usual false alarms that come as a result of our community growing and the industry having new sprinkler systems coming online. One thing to note: we had our highest call number this year compared to previous years. But actually, our call hours, how much time we spent at these calls, was definitely a lot lower."
The increase in motor vehicle accidents was weather-related, occurring in rural areas, added Paetzold.
This year is on pace to be another busy one, with January of 2023 seeing a twenty percent increase in calls compared to the same period in 2022,
According to the report, in 2022 the WFD's average response time to establish incident command from the time of 911 dispatch was 4 minutes and 19 seconds within the City of Winkler and 7 minutes and 7 seconds within the RM of Stanley. The countrywide standard per the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 1720 sets a minimum response time for paid-on-call departments of 9 minutes for urban and 14 minutes for rural areas.
The department is now in the process of expanding its ranks.
"We see as a result of high retention here that we have some members getting closer to retirement time. We need to prepare for that eventuality. We don't all last forever here. We put out the call and had 26 applicants, which was good for us to be able to choose from. So we had a competition for that, and we ended up with eight members that are currently going through level 1 firefighter training as we speak."
Paetzold expects Level 1 training to be completed in May, followed by evaluations at Brandon Emergency Services College. Trainees will increase the department's membership to thirty-four in June or July.
Modern firefighters are expected to be able to respond to any and all hazards noted Paetzold. To meet the challenge of keeping member skill sets current, the department is using past donations to expand its grain bin rescue training.
"We're kind of marrying some of those pieces together to make a more interactive green rescue simulator where it's not just the people on the end of the rope or in the bin that's getting the training or the benefits of the training, but also now we will be able to have instructors and observers being able to be up close and personal. With the training as well so they can be taking things away from that vantage point as well."
Meanwhile, Paetzold says eight members have signed up for a Medical First Responder course to increase the department's medical capability for technical rescue programs.