Annual report: Medicals down, fire calls up

Graafschap Fire Department looking at future of staffing.

Overall calls to the Graafschap Fire Department decreased in 2023, the first drop in 13 years.

The numbers are part of the annual report from the Graafschap Fire Department recently distributed to the Laketown Township Board of Trustees.

The drop in incidents from 894 in 2022 to 774 in 2023 was in medical-related calls though there was an increase of 39 fire calls.

Medical and fire calls

There were 534 total Rescue & Emergency Medical Service Incidents in 2023 and 696 total incidents in 2022.

“The decrease in medical calls for the year 2023 was due to a change in how a few of our busier addresses determine when an ambulance should be called for transport and evaluation,” said Graafschap Fire Chief Doug DenBleyker.

There were a total of 240 fire calls in 2023, an increase of 39 from 2022.

Trend expected to rise

The chief doesn’t expect the long-term trend of increasing calls to end.

“As people evaluate their work-life balances, which has become more pronounced after Covid, the volunteer roster has dropped considerably from a high of 24 in 2018 to 16 this month,” the chief said. The department should have about 23 staffers.

“The reduction in volunteers, the increased expectations and workload placed on volunteers, the training and number of hours required to be a firefighter have also played a part in our staffing issues,” he said. “Another issue we are running into is the volunteers we do have are living farther and farther away from the fire station and this significantly increases our response times.

“The long and short of it is, we are not far away from a staffing model where we will need to hire full-time firefighters that will staff shifts at the fire station,” he said.

This staffing model will ensure that when a call for service comes in, no matter time or day, there will be at least one person leaving from the fire station within 90 seconds, where today it can be upwards of 5 to 6 minutes if a call for service comes in at night or on the weekend.

“That time savings may not seem like a lot, but if you are having a medical emergency or your home is on fire, every second counts,” the chief said.

“Fire department staff and the fire board will be discussing in the next few months options for staffing and equipment needs for the future,” said DenBleyker.

The fire board is made up of representatives from Laketown and Fillmore townships.

The Graafschap Fire Department serves all of Laketown Township and roughly half of Fillmore Township.

History of calls

The total number of calls since 2012:

2023 – 774
2022 – 894
2021 – 850
2020 – 830
2019 – 756
2018 – 672
2017 – 604
2016 – 467
2015 – 458
2014 – 434
2013 – 390
2012 – 375