By Nick Bernard
Minden Hills fire chief Nelson Johnson reported the hiring of five new volunteer firefighters, and with that a new duty rotation that would place firefighters on a rotating schedule.
“With our call volume, we needed to adjust our program to have different members attend,” Johnson told councillors at the Nov. 25 meeting. He said the hope was to alleviate some stress.
“The Minden fire department is working very hard, we are training to meet the needs of the community,” Johnson said. “There have been many situations where we have these minor calls, but we need to send out these minimum resources to multiple scenes at the same time.”
Part of the solution, Johnson said, was the reintroduction of duty crews to the department.
“What it will do is it will help us be equipped with the minimum required staff to deal with fires … motor vehicle collisions, rescues, wildfires, other calls, medical calls,” Johnson explained as he described the concept to council. “We set the crews up into a platoon and the duty crew roster will direct to that platoon to say, ‘who’s on call for that week’?”
Johnson said volunteers will also have the opportunity to sign up to indicate their availability. He also said it will allow the burden of work to be distributed more evenly across the department, enabling those who respond to an inordinate amount of calls currently to relax.
Each platoon will have four members, and will rotate weekly.
The shift toward duty crews was widely lauded by council, with Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell praising its reintroduction.
“A former fire chief whom I know intimately had that program for many years and it works very well,” she said, referring to former fire chief Doug Schell, her husband. “So great job, it’ll work well for you.”
“Fantastic idea about the crews,” Councillor Jean Neville said in agreement.
Fire chief summarizes October activity to council
Johnson gave a breakdown of the number of calls the station received in October to council at last week’s meeting.
“We’ve done 48 calls just in the month of October,” Johnson said. “Last year at this time, it was 31 calls, so that’s a 54 per cent increase.”
This year, he said, there have been a total of 334 calls, up from 221 last year.
Johnson also broke down the types of calls they were receiving. A third of them were fire calls, another third medical. Public assistance, alarm, hydro, and rescue calls made up the final types of calls received and responded to by the fire department.
In a brief round of questions, Neville asked about the increase in volume, and whether it was affecting other municipalities as much as Minden.
“They all have different situations,” Johnson responded. “We have one municipality that actually went down [in volume and cost], and they haven’t seen one single structure fire this year.”
Johnson also said that he has spoken about this to Dysart et al fire chief Mike Iles.
“One of our biggest neighbours, of course, is Dysart et al, and he’s experiencing the same thing as we are.”