ATHABASCA – The Athabasca Fire Department kept busy last year, responding to nearly 100 calls.
Fire chief Travis Shalapay was at Athabasca town council's April 21 meeting to share the department's stats from 2019 and showed off the new patch department members have designed.
Shalapay told council the fire department turned their wheels 97 times last year and had 15 calls where they were on stand-by but ended up not being needed, or were false alarms that were verified false before they left the fire hall.
Firefighters responded to 13 structure fires, 10 wildland fires, six motor vehicle fires, 20 motor vehicle collisions, three rescues, two hazardous material calls, 10 medical assists, and were called upon seven times to assist other departments. There were also 26 false alarms, down from 45 in 2018.
“We've been fairly consistent around the 100 (calls) for the last five years,” Shalapay explained. “So, we're not seeing any dramatic increases. We're not seeing any dramatic decreases, but a nice stable number which is which is good to plan for.”
He noted that there were a few times they had to assist on things not related to fires like a boiler rupture and when the ice storm hit the region and they helped public works diverting traffic.
“We assisted public works a couple times; we had a water main rupture by Buy Low where the water was hitting the ground next to hydrant ... so we assisted them with that cleanup on that,” he noted. “As well as the ice storm where we spent the better part of the morning assisting public works.”
Shalapay added there are six new recruits, five of which are local, but due to the pandemic, training has been altered.
“We're also using the Zoom platform to facilitate training so at least we're trying to keep them engaged and interested because we don't want to lose these recruits because they are potential long-term members.”
Part of a project started before COVID-19 hit was the creation of a new patch for the department.
“We had seen in past years significant turnover in our membership to the point that we have very, very, very few long-term members remaining,” Shalapay said after the meeting. “There was actually nothing wrong with the existing patch, but it really was very generic, a little bit cartoony and pretty, I guess, non-descriptive.”
One of the items the firefighters get is a belt buckle, but the casting has been lost to time which prompted Shalapay to start to redesign the patch making it both newer and engaging the department in taking ownership of the new look.
“We started looking at getting belt buckles, and unfortunately, we couldn't find a casting so at the same time looking at these old belt buckles using the Town logo, we kind of started mixing it together and it started to look really, really sharp,” he explained. “Actually, the membership was quite enthused about it because this becomes their logo; the logo of the members.”
At the same time, they started digging into their heritage, Shalapay said, because a lot of new members don't know the history of the fire department.
“As a firefighter once you're in uniform that patch is your identity so, there was a lot of eagerness to adopt from that historical value into our patch,” he said. “The logo itself – the riverboat – was captured from the town's logo in showing our connection to the town.”
The final result is a pared down version of previous patches, dropping the traditional hook and ladder but adding the Jaws of Life.
“You'll notice that there's still a hydrant, the hook and ladder is gone,” Shalapay stated. “We’re not saying we don't do the rescue anymore, but we do a different kind of rescue. We’ve moved forward to a slicker look, but it's going back to our roots.”
Normally patches would be replaced as they wear out and if coveralls get damaged, so there was a $500 cost to replace the old patches. The cost to replace the decals on the vehicles is yet to be determined, Shalapay noted, as everything went on hold due to the pandemic, but it was budgeted for in 2019.
Heather Stocking, TownandCountryToday.com
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