The Steinbach Fire Department was called out much less often in 2018 than in 2017.
2017 ended up being a record year for the Steinbach Fire Department with 372 calls. But Fire Chief Kel Toews says in 2018 that number dropped to 300 (see breakdown below). August was the busiest month with 42 calls, while July was the slowest with 16.
Toews says most of the year over year difference was the result of firefighters responding to fewer motor vehicle collisions. Starting in 2018, the fire department no longer responds to a collision unless extrication is required or there are leaking fluids. As a result, Steinbach responded to 52 collisions in 2018, compared to 103 in 2017.
Toews says he thinks the new system is working quite well.
"Numbers like we had (in 2017) where we had over a call a day, just isn't sustainable with our volunteer fire system," he says. "We would have to consider full time or partial."
Toews says they responded to three collisions in 2018 at the McKenzie Avenue and Main Street intersection near the water tower. They responded to no other intersection more often than twice last year.
There were 56 actual fire calls last year. Of those, 17 were building fires and 12 were automobile fires. Though there were also grass fires, Toews says it wasn't a particularly busy grass fire season for the Steinbach Hall. Toews notes the number of house fires in 2018 was nothing out of the ordinary.
"At the beginning of the year we had a bit of a string of house fires," he says. "Towards the end of the year thankfully that eased off."
Steinbach firefighters continue to respond to a high percentage of false alarms. In 2017, 23 per cent of all calls were false alarms and in 2018 that climbed to 32 per cent.
"We'll often have a business that will have a string of three, four, five and they get the problem fixed and we don't hear from them for years again," he says.
Though impossible to project how busy 2019 might be, Toews says there is a very good chance their workload will be even lighter this year. That is because Blumenort is expected to open its new fire hall in summer, which should cut down on Steinbach's calls. Toews notes this just buys more years for Steinbach to continue operating as a volunteer fire department.