THINGS HAVE BEEN BUSY for the members of the Braidwood Fire Protection District. Fire Chief Ken Heberer reports that the department received an additional ten calls per month in 2012 over the previous year’s stats. The BFD services 18 square miles of Braidwood, plus an additional 18 square miles in Custer Township for ambulance service.
Marney Simon Staff writer
The Braidwood Fire Protection District had a busy year in 2012, with an increase in calls of just over 11 percent from 2011.
In 2012, the department answered a total of 1,105 calls, an average of roughly 92 calls per month. That's a marked increase of 10 or more calls per month from the previous four years. In 2011, the department averaged 82 calls each month. In the three years before that, the monthly averages were 80, 81, and 82 calls, respectively.
Calls to the fire department don't necessarily mean that something is on fire. Of the calls in 2012, 852 were for an ambulance. There were 67 calls to assist other departments, and 20 calls for structure fires among the totals. Those calls went out to different places in the department's coverage areas, including Braidwood, Shadow Lakes, Custer Park (for ambulance calls) and Godley.
Fire Chief Ken Heberer said the increase isn't necessarily a sign that there's trouble. Just that people may view the fire department differently as time goes by.
"There's no really good answer on [why calls have increased], I know some other departments out there... have also gone up," Heberer said. "We get called for a lot of things that people didn't use to call for."
For example, Heberer said that last year, the department received a non-emergency call to their building from someone looking for help installing batteries in their smoke detector. The department obliged the request.
"It's just some of the things that we do. They just didn't do that before," Heberer noted. "She couldn't get up on a ladder, and we said, we don't want you on a ladder. You need your batteries changed, we'll come do that for you."
Braidwood Fire has 52 employees, and roughly 30 of those are paid on call and/or part-time workers.
Despite the label of "part-time," those employees put in a lot of hours. Shifts are 12 hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., then 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. During the daytime hours, there are always five people on hand at the department. Overnight, there are four people available. Heberer said the part-timers are limited to a certain number of hours per month.
"Part-time in the fire service is a little bit different than part-time outside of it because we have a 24-hour shift," Heberer said. "So part-time firefighters cannot work more than 212 hours in a 28-day period. So we usually stop them at 192, we let them work 192 hours a month. But sometimes someone can work 36 hours [in a row]."
And whether they're out on a call or they have a lull, there's always something to do.
"They have specific duties and training they do during the day," Heberer noted. "Basically, they can work 12- or 24-hour shifts, and there's duties broken down both day time and night time. That includes vehicle maintenance, cleaning maintenance, cleaning the building, training, all that has to be taken care of."
More on the activities of the Braidwood Fire Department can be found in the Jan. 16 edition of The Braidwood Journal.