PERRY TOWNSHIP - Perry Township volunteer firefighters responded to more calls last year than the previous year, with increases in structure fires, accidents and medical assists leading to the larger number.
According to the year-end call report, the number of calls increased to 117 in 2013 from 87 in 2012. Previous reports showed there were 130 calls in 2011 and 91 calls in 2010, so the numbers historically tend to fluctuate.
With a new first responder program set to begin sometime this year, there's no way to know what to expect for the number of incidents this year.
Fire Chief Bruce Whitcher said the department's purpose is to help the citizens - that's why they volunteer. That's what he stressed when he went to bat for the first responder program, that they wanted to be able to offer this possible life-saving service to the township residents.
"We try to do our best for the community," he said.
With the first responder program, firefighters will be able to administer basic aid that they couldn't before at the scene of an accident or fire and they'll be able to go on medical calls. They'll be able to administer fluids, oxygen and open an airway if necessary. They won't be transporting, but they'll assist patients while awaiting an ambulance crew or provide an extra set of hands on a scene.
Whitcher said having that ability will better prepare them for dealing with a larger event if one occurs, such as a plane crash, bus accident, train wreck or weather-related disaster.
According to the report, the number of structure fires for the department increased from two to four last year, with an apartment fire last November on West Perry Street sticking out in the chief's mind the most.
He said the outcome was a lot better than it could have been, considering there were no working smoke alarms.
No injuries were reported, but at least 10 residents had to be rescued or assisted out of the building, with the Salem Fire Department providing mutual aid and using their ladder truck and an extension ladder to rescue at least six of the residents from upper floors and helping two others out, while the township assisted an elderly couple out, including a woman on oxygen.
Whitcher confirmed the department has a smoke alarm program for township residents. The department can come and install two smoke alarms for free. If a homeowner wants to purchase more, the department will install those, too. Residents can call the department's non-emergency number at 330-332-4676 and leave a message for the chief.
Under fires, the report listed one call for a possible structure fire and five calls for mutual aid structure fires, an increase from four mutual aid structure fires in 2012. There were also two car fires, one semi fire, four grass fires, and one each of a chimney fire, oven fire and dryer fire. Burning complaints stayed the same at 10, with 12 fire alarms reported.
All categories for motor vehicle accidents showed increases. Accidents with injuries increased from 11 in 2012 to 12 in 2013. Accidents with entrapments doubled from two to four and accidents with no injuries increased from five to nine.
The department forced entry for medicals three times, with lift assists increasing from nine to 10 and calls to assist ambulance crews increasing from three to nine.
Other calls in 2013 consisted of one lightning strike of a home, one for a smell of smoke in a home, four gas leaks, nine trees on wires, three downed lines, two flooded basements and seven investigations. There was also one home inspection for child care.
Whitcher said he's working on a possible inspector program for fire inspectors to inspect businesses. He said three firefighters are currently trained as inspectors. If called, he said they've gone to inspect a business occasionally, but a program would allow for a regular schedule.
The fire department is strictly volunteers, all unpaid, with 28 firefighters on the current roster, both male and female. The officers include Whitcher, Assistant Chiefs Phil Panezott and Dave Panezott and Captains Brandon Smith and Brian Houshour.
Whitcher announced the date of the next pancake and sausage breakfast at the north station will be May 3. More details will be announced closer to the event date.