Where’s the fire? | CraigDailyPress.com

Where’s the fire?

Firefighters answer more calls than last year

Craig firefighters responded to more emergencies in 2004 than in previous years.

Calls for firefighter assistance — which include medical emergencies, ambulance aid and fires — were up in 2004.

The increase in calls is partly because many firefighters with the Craig Rural Fire Protection District do more than answer fire calls, said firefighter Doug Slaight.

“Today’s fire department plays so many roles. We’re not just putting out fires,” he said.

“The firefighters are pretty involved.”

The Fire Department has 23 members, 12 of whom also are emergency medical technicians.

A few more of the station’s firefighters are in the process of becoming EMTs.

Craig firefighters have been assisting ambulance services for about the past six years. But firefighters last year started assisting on medical calls, such as responding to calls for heart attack victims.

To date this year, the department has responded to 108 fire calls — which can include grass fires, vehicle fires and reports of smoke — and assisted ambulances on 135 calls. That’s up from 2003, when firefighters responded to 105 fire calls and assisted ambulance crews 101 times.

Ironically, Slaight said the number of structure fires has decreased greatly in the area during his 27-year history with the department.

Slaight estimated that the department responded to 27 fires a year when he was a rookie in 1986.

This year, he estimated the department handled only a few structure fires.

“I think that’s because of a more aggressive approach to fire prevention,” he said. “People are more aware and fire safe.”

Moffat County’s Hazardous Materials Team also responded to more calls this year. In 2003, the team responded to three calls compared with this year’s five calls.

Haz-Mat Chief Bill Johnston said this year’s calls were diverse, allowing the 10-member team to gain necessary experience.

For example, this year Haz-Mat members stabilized a large gas spill on Rabbit Ears Pass and handled a fiery propane tanker collision west of Maybell.

The Haz-Mat team serves Rio Blanco and Routt counties in addition to Moffat county.

“What we’ve recognized this year, as opposed to others, is that other counties are starting to utilize our services,” Johnston said.

In 2003, the team was reimbursed $7,800 for calls, but it received $20,000 for calls this year.

Haz-Mat can collect for its services when an outside entity is found at fault for causing a hazardous waste spill or an emergency.

Last year, the Haz-Mat team encountered an operating deficit after its startup grant money was spent and because it had few hazardous spills to clean up. That required the team to request funds from the city and county.

The city and county will kick in a total of $25,400 in 2005.

Local governments have to fund Haz-Mat operations if the team isn’t able to collect enough money from its yearly call load.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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