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More Perry firefighters turn out when called

PERRY TOWNSHIP — Perry Township volunteer firefighters changed how they responded to medical calls last year due to COVID-19, taking more precautions to protect themselves, which they’re continuing to do.

That’s about all that changed, though, according to their recently released 2020 stats.

The number of overall calls only increased by one, with 362 calls recorded in 2020 and 361 calls in 2019. One number that did jump up was how many personnel responded to calls, increasing from 1,460 in 2019 to 1,686 in 2020.

Fire Chief Brandon Smith, who was assistant chief last year, said he had no explanation, but called it “awesome,” adding he “can’t complain about that.” He could actually use more firefighters.

“I’d like to have 25 to 30 on the roster,” he said.

Out of 19 currently active firefighters on the department, about seven to nine show up consistently for calls. Trustees recently enacted a per-call stipend for firefighters in an effort to attract more to the roster and to calls.

A volunteer must be at least 18 years old, be a high school graduate, and possess a clean driving record and be subject to a criminal background check. A physical is required also.

Anyone interested in becoming a firefighter can call the department’s business line at 330-332-4676. If no one answers, leave a message with name, phone number and reason calling. Recruits must complete a 120-hour Firefighter 1 course at the expense of the department. The department also does in-house training every Thursday night.

Smith said one of his goals is to have every firefighter trained at least as an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), too. A high number of calls are related to medicals, either as first responders or to assist ambulance crews. The department established a first responder program five years ago, with the fire department called to medical emergencies besides fire calls.

Ten in the department have certifications for medical calls, with three at the EMR level and seven Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT).

They have no advanced EMTs or paramedics right now. Having the first responder program has been a time saver for critical care to patients, with the fire department sometimes arriving before an ambulance.

The report showed 114 first responder/EMS calls and 96 assist EMS/lift assist calls for 2019, for 210 total EMS-related calls. In 2020, there were 217 EMS-related calls, which included lift assists, EMS/medical calls or assist EMS calls. University Hospitals supervise protocols for the program, supplying equipment and online training.

In the age of COVID-19, one person is sent in to see what’s needed, with another standing by just outside to limit possible exposure. They always wear masks and gloves on every call, but if a patient has known symptoms or is positive for COVID-19, they also wear gowns, goggles and face masks over their N-95 masks. Trucks are sanitized after every call. He also credited the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency with donating a lot of PPE supplies.

Smith did note that their computer software changed, so the report for 2020 is more detailed than the one for 2019, making it hard to do a number-by-number comparison of calls. The 2019 report showed five structure fires. The 2020 report showed nine building fires and one fire in a structure other than a building. He also said the mutual aid fires may be mixed in with the building fire numbers. There were seven mutual aid calls to help other departments in 2019. In 2020, there were 18.

Some of the other numbers included one vehicle fire in 2019 and five in 2020, seven trash/rubbish/brush/grass fires in 2019 and 17 in 2020, 16 accidents with injury in 2019 and 17 in 2020, 15 accidents with no injury in 2019 and 17 in 2020. The department also responded to burning complaints, smoke investigations, fire alarms, carbon monoxide calls, natural gas leaks or odors, wires down or arcing and weather-related calls, animal problems, lockouts and what are referred to as good intent calls (cancelled calls or calls that ended up being non-calls).

The department offers a free smoke detector to township residents with free installation. Just call the business line at 330-332-4676 and leave a message.

“There are a lot of people that don’t even know the Perry Township fire department exists,” Smith said, adding he’s heard it more than once.

“We’re here. Anything we can do for anybody, give us a call,” he said.

For emergencies, dial 911 or call the direct emergency line for the department at 330-332-3000. The police department direct line to dispatch is 330-332-1000. He encouraged township residents to program the numbers into their phones or post them.

The department/association usually does a breakfast twice a year as a fundraiser, but they were cancelled due to the pandemic. This year he said a drive-in or eat-in pasta dinner is planned from 4 to 7 p.m. May 15 at the Salem Eagles. A basket raffle will be held, too.

The association pays for uniforms, some equipment, banquets and charitable donations. The township, through the fire levies approved by voters, pays for most equipment, include purchase, maintenance and repairs of trucks, turnout gear, airpacks and air tanks, radios and training.

Smith is also trying to secure grants to secure more turnout gear so that every firefighter has two sets.

The report also noted there were more calls to the south than to the north, with State Street the dividing line for the unincorporated areas of the township. Both years there were 224 calls to the south. In 2019, there were 137 calls to the north and 138 in 2020. The majority of calls occur in daylight or evening hours.

The fire department fleet includes two engines, a tanker, a rescue truck, and two grass trucks.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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