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By LeAnn R. Ralph
TOWN OF HOWARD — With Wheaton set to leave the Chippewa Fire District at the end of the year, the fire chief and the EMS chief want to assure Town of Howard residents that their service will not change.
Scott Bernette, fire chief, and Mark Roshell, emergency medical services chief, spoke to the Howard Town Board at the February 4 meeting.
Approximately 30 people attended the meeting.
Wheaton will be leaving the Chippewa Fire District at the end of the year, and the question is, “how do we proceed?” Bernette said.
Wheaton contributes about 15 percent of the fire district’s budget, he said.
The Chippewa Fire District currently serves the Towns of Hallie, Howard, Lafayette and Wheaton and the Village of Lake Hallie.
The fire district has four fire stations, including one fire station in the Town of Howard.
“We have a good plan … we will be okay just the way we are,” Bernette said.
Wheaton leaving the district will change how resources are deployed, he said.
To find out how that will work, the fire district has been “acting as if Wheaton is not here now,” Bernette said.
With two full-time crews at the Hallie station and the Lafayette station, if Hallie goes out on a call, then the Lafayette crew moves to the Hallie station, he said.
Because EMS may be needed on the scene of a fire, both for any victims of a fire and for the firefighters, firefighters are trained as paramedics, Bernette said.
“We are getting out of the door sooner,” he said.
“You are getting the same services … either way, we’re coming,” Bernette said.
The EMS portion of the fire district has changed the operational plan somewhat, and the Chippewa Fire District is working with Colfax and Bloomer for mutual aid responses, Roshell said.
First responders are needed, too. Cooks Valley has one first responder, and Howard has two, so an agreement is in the works between Cooks Valley and Howard, he said.
If a “serious” calls comes in, then mutual aid can be requested from Colfax and Bloomer, Roshell said.
Colfax is an “advanced life support” (ALS) service and can start IVs and administer nitrous oxide for pain, he said.
The Chippewa Fire District is a licensed paramedic service, so Chippewa must intercept Colfax or Bloomer to transport patients to the hospital, Roshell said.
A report on response times from Colfax, Bloomer and Chippewa indicates 23 minutes was the longest for an ambulance to get to Howard, he said, noting that for the 23 minute response time, the ambulance service was needed when there also was a structure fire.
“We are working diligently to give you the best service we can,” Roshell said.
In 2018, Wheaton asked for a report on response times and was provided with the address and the amount of time it took for the ambulance to arrive, he said.
Legally, the ambulance service can give the address and the amount of time the ambulance was on the call, but not the nature of the call, Roshell said.
Gerald Eder, Town of Howard resident, wanted to know how the decision is made to call Bloomer or Colfax.
Much depends on the nature of the call, whether the second crew is available or whether Chippewa should be called, Roshell said.
If mutual aid between two services is used too much, then it is viewed as not being mutual aid, but rather, is covering the service area, he noted.
Susan LaNou, Town of Howard resident, asked about a fatal snowmobile accident on state Highway 40.
First responders were there right away, Roshell said, adding that he was not 100 percent certain when the ambulance arrived at the scene.
Eder asked how many paramedics and firefighters the fire district has on the roster
Every person on the ambulance also is a firefighter, Roshell said.
At Lake Hallie, crews are “out of the door” in five minutes, he said.
The Chippewa Fire District uses the “I am Responding” system to know who is responding and how long it will be before they are able to arrive at the scene, Roshell said.
Some people take their gear home with them for faster response times, he said.
According to the Chippewa Fire District’s 2018 annual report, there were 117 people on the roster.
The way the fire district is set up, any firefighter can operate any of the equipment at any of the district’s fire stations, Roshell said.
About 70 percent of the people in the fire district can operate all of the equipment in the district, he said.
The Chippewa Fire District has about 100 members throughout the district, and if a major structure fire occurs, about 45 of those members will be able to show up, Roshell said.
Burnette and Roshell stayed until after the meeting had adjourned so they could answer questions from Town of Howard residents about the fire and EMS service in the Chippewa Fire District.