By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Picture Butte and District Emergency Services’ Fire Chief Frank West paid a visit to a Picture Butte town council meeting held Feb. 13.
“I’d like to give you an update on a couple of things we have in the works,” he told council members and town staff, including Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Keith Davis.
“Keith and I spent last week in Lethbridge County, where they are moving forward with their risk assessment on a regional level. What they’ve done is they’ve hired a consultant to come in. They are consultants who will be working with each of the partners, that’s all five municipalities — the City of Lethbridge and Lethbridge County,” he noted.
Collectively, West explained, a survey will be completed openly and transparently of risk assessments in Picture Butte and the other communities involved.
“And share those with each other. This consultant will then try and provide us with a framework for an agreement we can bring back to our individual municipalities and see if we like it or see if it needs to be amended. That whole project has a timeline of May. They want to have that wrapped up and brought back to councils for the summer, so we can move forward with a decision — whether or not we’re going to go ahead with it,” he said.
After settling into his new position as fire chief, West said, he plans to build on the policies and procedures the town has put into place already.
“There’s a few things that need to be added and some things that need to be reviewed. Just regular administrative things,” he added.
West’s big goal this year, he said, is to strengthen relationships — mainly, the fire department and council.
“I want to make sure I’m accessible as you need me to be, “ he told council, during his presentation.
He said he also wants to build relationships with other stakeholders, as well.
“Including Lethbridge County and the community at large. I have some positive visions of getting a little more community outreach out of the department and building on some programs we currently have and one we had in the past and things we would like to revisit,” he said.
Last year, West said, was an upward trend for the department.
“We are not, in any means, getting any less busy. Total response-wise, 466 events last year — 371 of those were direct ambulance responses through our contract agreement with Alberta Health Services (AHS). Additionally, on top of that, 104 of those responses come directly from your volunteer firefighters,” West explained.
A good portion of what fire department volunteers respond to are medical calls, aside from the ambulance service, West said.
“We fill that gap when the ambulance is already out on a call or when they need additional support or when multiple calls come in at the same time. That is still 31 per cent of our response,” he added.
With motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), West said, there were a few more than the previous year.
“The only actual decrease we’ve seen was in grass fires. Being we had the wettest July on record last year, it really helped us in August and September. We fought a lot less grass fires last year,” he said.
Currently, the Picture Butte fire department sits at 18 members, but the department is fully-suited for up to 24 members.
West also added this year’s annual firefighter’s ball was a success.