With a month left in 2018, the number of calls for Ponoka’s fire service have increased fairly significantly.
In an end of the year report to Ponoka County council on Dec. 11, presented by regional Fire Chief Dennis Jones, the number of times the department’s trucks have rolled out has hit 369 as of the end of November.
While the west district (Rimbey) department number is basically the same as 2017 — up just two calls to 119 — the east district has reached the 250 mark, with nearly 40 per cent of those calls (97) being inside the Ponoka town limits.
Out of those 97, 37 calls were classified as false alarms followed closely by calls to assist police or emergency medical services with 26. The rest include 12 fire calls, four grass or rubbish calls, 11 public service and seven motor vehicle incidents.
As well, the east district number includes 61 responses to motor vehicle accidents on Highways 2 and 53. There were also four mutual aid calls to assist other fire departments and seven times equipment went to support the west district.
For the 81 other calls, the east district went out more than half the time — 41 times — to answer false alarms in the county. The next largest number for county calls was 17 for grass or rubbish fires while there were 11 responses for structure blazes, seven vehicle collisions on county roads and five public service assistance calls.
In the west district, the vast majority of calls as of Nov. 30 were in the county with 54. While there were 12 structure fires and 15 rubbish or grass blazes, there were also 14 false alarms to go along with three vehicle collisions and four public assistance calls.
That’s in contrast to calls inside Rimbey’s town limits, where there were 18 false alarms and 15 calls to assist police or ambulance crews. Also included were four structure fires, two vehicle collisions and seven grass or rubbish calls.
The rest of the 119 is made up of 13 vehicle incidents on provincial highways, one response to the Summer Village of Parkland Beach and four mutual aid calls.
There was one small concern noted by Jones and that is the current level of staffing in the west district.
“We are presently sitting at about 22 or 23 members out there and would really like to see at least two or three more added to that,” he stated.
“As for the east district, we are pretty good with 27 and that leaves room if the two graduates from our cadet program want to join.”
As for the 2018 fiscal picture for the department, operations are consistent with what was laid out in the budget as far as revenue goes.
About $20,000 more in grants has been received — as of Nov. 30 — than was expected while revenue from highway calls is pretty much at the $125,000 anticipated, with the west district down just over $9,000 while the east district has taken in about $9,100 more.
On the expenses side, the department appears to be on track to meet its budget of nearly $2.3 million in spending with the west district having spent just over $185,000 of its slightly more than $273,000 budget and the east district having over $427,000 left in its almost $1.85 million budget.
Be mindful though, that figure includes a pair of large capital expenses — the $500,000 fire hall expansion and the purchase of a new fire truck slated to arrive sometime in 2019.