By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
According to fire services across the region, call volumes have been trending up steadily in recent years, with no signs of abating.
Fire Chief of the Nobleford Fire Department, Ryan Wagner confirmed that within the department, call volumes have increased, “every year for the last number of years,” adding the 2023 season is no exception.”
Early summer conditions and high spring temperatures kicked off a busy season for crews, as the moisture provided by the winter snow cover evaporated earlier in the spring.
“This spring started out with some dry and warm weather, creating precise fire conditions which turned into working large wildland fires for our crews. Typically the weather pattern can change with high winds and extreme heat conditions, which happens throughout the entire summer season, and can continue until the cooler temperatures arise,” he added.
The increase in calls is a challenge in and of itself. Wagner said the department’s crews, “responded to numerous wildland fires, and structure fires in our district, as well as mutual aid calls.” The department responds to calls and works closely with mutual aid partners in other nearby or neighbouring districts as needed, which puts an increased demand on the department’s volunteers as they balance volunteering in addition to their regular family, work, and home responsibilities.
The Nobleford Fire Department is funded through the municipality, with funds allocated annually in the Town’s budget. However, the department’s operations are handled 100 per cent by volunteers who cover administration, training, and responses out in the community. Wagner said in addition to municipal funding, agreements are made between Lethbridge County and Nobleford, and between the Village of Barons and Nobleford, since Barons’ fire department closed down in early 2022.
Although every department faces unique challenges, Wagner said the most challenging events of 2023 were a combination of incidents over a week-long period.
“We had experienced a mix of wildland, vehicles, personal vehicles and large tractors, and multiple structure fires in a seven day stretch in extreme heat, all of them taking numerous hours from our volunteers to respond to.”
A sustained strain on resources over multiple days exacerbates stress and pressures experienced by crews.
“Even though they are separate events, these large events in a small time frame can make it seem like constant responses without breaks.”
The department is focusing efforts during the 2023 Fire Prevention Week on in-person education.
“I would also like to mention that for Fire Prevention Week, our crews will be visiting local schools educating and showcasing fire safety to the elementary classes, and focusing on the message about ‘Cooking Safety starts with you’,” which will help youth gain new independence safely by identifying risks in the kitchen and learning proper protocol.