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The Steinbach Fire Department is no longer responding to all motor vehicle accidents in its coverage area. Fire Chief Kel Toews outlines the change that took effect at the start of the year.

"We found we were responding to too many fender benders in parking lots and really, accidents that we weren't required at. We've changed it now that when you call 911, like in the past the 911 operator will ask a series of questions and two of them are: Whether anyone is still trapped in the vehicle? and, Whether there are any fluids leaking? If the answers to both of those questions are 'no', we will no longer be called out. They have to be a definite no. If the caller has any doubts, we will still be called out."

Toews notes there will be some exceptions to the rule.

"If for any reason the RCMP or the EMS require our assistance, we have been in conversation with them and they can call us out at any time for any circumstance where they need us. We will still also be called out if STARS is called to the scene. We do the landing zone coordination for them."

Toews says the change improves efficiency for the department but also for employers whose workers are volunteer firefighters and who have to leave their jobs to attend calls.

"Every time they go to a motor vehicle accident, it's an hour out of their work time, an hour of production. We're trying to reduce our calls so that it's not a big a burden on our employers. And it's also a safety issue. Every time we get calls, we have ten or 12 members coming to the fire hall and then we have two or three vehicles going out to the accident scene, so it's a safety issue as well."

Toews says if January is any indication, the change will reduce the number of accident calls for the fire department by roughly 25 per cent or about four calls per month.

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