“When you dial 9-1-1 from a landline, your land location is automatically established at our Strathcona Dispatch Call Answer Center and the appropriate Fire Department will be dispatched”, explained Mike Zajac, Director of Emergency Services, County of Wetaskiwin (Fire Chief). “When you dial from a cell phone, you must ask for Strathcona Dispatch Call Answer Center, and you will have to provide your land location, detailed directions or any other information required by the operator.”
Mike heads up the County of Wetaskiwin Emergency Services aimed at protecting and improving the quality of community life through the delivery of fire/rescue services, ambulance services, disaster services, and 9-1-1 dispatch.
Nobody can predict when a disaster may strike or how far-reaching its effects might be, but everyone can do things at home and at work, that can help reduce the risk, or lessen damage after a disaster. The County of Wetaskiwin has a Municipal Emergency Plan that includes information for emergency situations such as dangerous goods spills, poison control, oil field incidents, severe weather and any other incident which may affect citizens. This plan includes the hamlets within the County of Wetaskiwin as well as a partnership with the Town of Millet and the City of Wetaskiwin. The Summer Villages of Crystal Springs, Argentia Beach, Poplar Bay, Grandview, Norris Beach and Ma Me O Beach have all passed By-Laws allowing each municipality to participate in the County of Wetaskiwin Municipal Emergency Plan.
“The Standard of Care for Fire Services is the protection of life and property, therefore our Duty of Care is to ensure our firefighters are trained and have the proper equipment to fulfill these requirements. All of the fire departments plan and upgrade equipment on a yearly basis. These capital upgrades and new purchases are planned on a five year basis. Capital purchases are also supported by the County through the allowance of departmental over expenditures paid back to the County over a pre-determined period, usually a five year term. Funding is established with a fire zone mill rate in each Fire Protection Zone.”
Zajac mentions some of the new and improved equipment supporting Fire Services in the County. At present, the County has;
Three new trucks in service:
• Two 2014 F-350’s set up for wild land firefighting (4 x 4 capable units to get into hard to reach areas).
• One 2014 Rosenbauer Fire Pumper (some features include a -PTO generator, 1000 gallons of water for firefighting, 5,000 litre- per minute pump).
Other equipment purchased:
• Breathing air compressor and fill station to fill breathing air bottles for firefighting at South Pigeon Lake.
Trucks upcoming for 2015:
• New tanker for the Wetaskiwin fire response area.
• New rescue truck for Buck Lake / Alder Flats.
• New rescue truck for South Pigeon Lake (currently being built).
• 8 new Self-contained breathing apparatus. (S.C.B.A.)
Zajac proudly states that the County’s fire apparatus (trucks) fleet is second to none. He is also proud that the County firefighters are training towards the National Fire Protection Association standard (N.F.P.A.) 1001 (these are professional qualifications for a firefighter that are recognized internationally.) County fire protection is provided by a cross section of both County departments and agreements for service with departments in other municipalities. The departments are administered by a Board of Directors and are funded through user fees and a fire mill rate for capital purposes. In addition to capital costs which include new fire halls, equipment and fire trucks the County provides an additional annual operational fire grant to each fire department.
All fire departments charge a user fee when responding to a fire call; these fees are uniform throughout the County and are $300.00 per unit, per hour. If fire protection charges levied against a County landowner for an incident within the County exceeds $10,000.00 the County may waive any charges in excess of the $10,000.00, provided that the person to whom the charges are levied has complied with conditions as outlined in Bylaw 2012/07.
The County Emergency Services responded to a total of 288 call outs in 2013; downed power lines, fuel spills, machinery fire, mutual aid, water rescue, gas leak/odor, motor vehicle accidents, structure fires, outside fires, EMS/STARS and alarms.
For more photos and stories about Fire Prevention Week, see this week’s special section, The Fire Brigade News, included with your paper.