The Portage Fire Department service calls are up this year and the fire chief says it might be due to an increase in automobile accidents.
Chief Tory Haase said calls are up 15% in 2021 with calls to date. The Department received 247 calls to date last year and has been called 290 times so far this year.
“We weren’t entirely sure what it was, but then saw an increase car crashes,” Haase said at the Portage Common Council meeting Thursday night. “There’s been a lot of them this year.”
In August, the department was called to twice in one night. The first was a truck fire and the second was a semi-truck rolled over on Interstate 90/94. It is just one of the incidents Haase referred to.
Even though the department is responding to more calls, the department is fully staffed with 21 paid on-call firefighters.
“We are growing with five new paid on-calls starting since March,” Haase said. “Some are even coming from other departments.”
Haase told the council the department has needed to change the reporting software used to track service calls with other information.
EPR FireWorks is the new reporting software the department is using. Haase said he had been using some of the data analysis tools of the program to take a look at inefficiencies within the Portage Fire Department. He found the average number of respondents to a fire call is worrisome.
Haase showed the board a graph showing the average number of people who respond to a call. The department can often get somewhere between four and six people to respond to fire calls.
“That’s an issue because you need five people to operate the fire engine,” Haase said. He added they often get 10 people to respond to a call but it is something the department is working to improve.
Another issue the department has according to Haase is that some of the paid on-call firefighters live far from Portage and the fire hall, 119 W. Pleasant Street. He joked that he has a solution for all firefighters to live within ten blocks of the fire hall.
Cadet programThe Portage Fire Department Firefighter Cadet Program is new for high school students this year and the fire department is partnering with the Portage School District.
Haase said the program will be open to juniors and seniors and must be at least 16 years old to participate. Students must also maintain at least a 2.5 GPA.
“The students will be able to earn credits through the high school and will be at the fire hall every day from 2 to 4 in the afternoon.”
Students in the cadet program will also need to attend monthly training and meetings to be enrolled in the program.
“It’s an opportunity for kids to find out if they want to be a first responder,” Haase said. “
Alderperson Eric Shimpach asked if there were any certifications given out when students complete the program. Haase said students will be doing everything in the certification class, but since it is not the actual full firefighter certification.
“It is not the accredited course but the students will run through the entire process,” Haase said. “They will have all the basics and very well prepared for the real class.”
Shimpach suggested this could be something students could put on their college applications or resumes in the future.
“The ultimate goal of the program is to boost the roster,” Haase said. “We already have an 18 year old interested already in signing on.”