The Winkler Fire Department (WFD) responded to 176 emergency calls in 2018, an overall 10% increase in calls from 2017.
Fire Chief Richard Paetzold says the increase was noted in both the City of Winkler and the R.M. of Stanley, however, the increase was more notable in the R.M.
Call volume in the City of Winkler was up 6% from the previous year, to 120 calls. This was attributed to a small increase in all incident types, with the exception of motor vehicle collisions and CO calls, both of which dropped in 2018.
Call volume spiked by 28% in the R.M. of Stanley to 51 calls. Paetzold says this was mainly due to increased fire incidents and false alarms.
Fire calls to Stanley were up by 13, for a total of 28, and in Winkler, there were 41 fire incidents, up only 1 from 2017.
Paetzold says there was no one attributing factor as to why fire incidents were up. He says they responded to everything from smoking material being left in planter pots, to industrial fires.
2018 was an exceptional year for people being attentive, using fire extinguishers, or a business with a sprinkler system helping to control fires and keeping them small. "Basically all big fires start small, so early detection and prevention is key to keeping that trend happening. This could have been a significant fire year if it were not for the actions of alert employees or homeowners."
Meanwhile, the fire department responded to 14 fewer motor vehicle accidents in 2018, for a total of 34.
False alarms were up, increasing by 19, to a total of 52. Paetzold says it's typical for that to jump up and down from year to year. "Some of that was attributed to new businesses coming online, and their systems being activated. That's kind of something we expect when new schools or new businesses come online, we're going to have some bugs to work out."
In 2018, call response times continued to be well within acceptable ranges for WFD. On average, in and around Winkler, firefighters are on-scene within 3 minutes, 37 seconds of a call.
Within the R.M Stanley, the average response time was 6 minutes 49 seconds.
The National Fire Protection Association's minimum response time is 9 minutes for an urban centre, 14 minutes for rural areas.
When it comes to the start of 2019, Paetzold says the department has been kept busy. "We kind of got shot out of the gate."
Paetzold says a lot of calls in January and the beginning of February can be attributed to the cold in some way, shape, or form. "We've had several carbon monoxide issues, and that's been attributed to furnaces working harder than they did in the past, and exhaust pipes being plugged up with ice. So we always encourage homeowners to be vigilant in maintaining their furnaces. . . and make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your house."