Stettler Regional Fire Rescue serves vital role in community

Fire-Prevention Week is a prime time to celebrate Stettler Regional Fire Rescue and its important role in the community.

Leaders of the fire department - Stettler Regional Fire Rescue is led by Fire Chief Mark Dennis (right) and Deputy Chief Etienne Brugman.

Leaders of the fire department - Stettler Regional Fire Rescue is led by Fire Chief Mark Dennis (right) and Deputy Chief Etienne Brugman.

Fire-Prevention Week is a prime time to celebrate Stettler Regional Fire Rescue and its important role in the community.

Fire halls and crews serving the Town of Stettler, County of Stettler, Byemoor, the Village of Big Valley and the Village of Donalda have been building a strong regional partnership.

“We believe the regional service is very effective – we’re much stronger,” said Fire Chief Mark Dennis who has served as regional chief since September 2005.

“We are all part of one team and we work well with each other,” said Etienne Brugman, who became full-time deputy chief in March 2009.

“When we’re on a call, we have to have enough staff and equipment to respond to another call,” said Fire Chief Dennis.

“We have the depth and the resources to respond to multiple calls and one station covers for another – and that happens a lot.”

Training, recruiting and retaining members is his major priorities with 53 members in the four fire halls.

Like most fire departments, Stettler continues to recruit more to strengthen the service.

“We would like to have 65 – 70 would be better,” said Fire Chief Dennis.

A regional service with a strong contingency of committed members is vital for the partner municipalities.

Without a regional service, the communities would have great difficulty providing adequate fire protection and rescue services, said Fire Chief Dennis.

“We are able to function together and share in the costs.”

With municipal support, the resources of equipment and trucks are regularly updated and replaced with new trucks.

Replaced every 20 to 25 years, new trucks strengthen the department’s ability to respond to the emergency.

Stettler fire hall welcomed two new trucks in the past year including a truck featuring a 100-foot ladder and a pumper truck.

“We have developed a 10-year plan, the part of that plan is to have four new tanker trucks in the next few years,” said Dennis.

“Every year for the next few years, we’ll get a new truck.”

Provincial funding from the Municipal Sponsorship Programs enables the regional fire department to acquire new equipment and construct new and extended facilities in partnership with municipalities.

A new fire hall for Donalda continues to progress while another extension to Stettler fire hall is also in the plans.

Rural addressing in the County of Stettler has also added to the resources allowing the service to sufficiently respond to indidents.

With emergency vehicles equipped with routing software, the address simply has to be entered into a computer in the truck in the mapping system and the quickest route by road to the rural address is displayed.

“This new system takes us right to the residence and shows us the shortest route to get there,” said Fire Chief Dennis.

All this new equipment has been a long time coming.

“A lot of these projects have been in the works for many years and now we’re seeing the products,” said Fire Chief Dennis.

While the chief and deputy chief lead the regional service, the fire chief of each hall manages the everyday operations for that area to ensure the hall is equipped with adequate resources and ample volunteers.

Dennis and Brugman are also busy inspecting new buildings for fire safety and review plans for buildings.

“We do all fire investigations,” said Fire Chief Dennis.

“If a fire investigation is required, we do it,’

An increase is grass and brush fires have kept local fire crews busy this year under very dry and hot weather conditions and virtually no rain.

At the same time the number of highway collisions and structure fires remain at similar levels to last year.

First Responders with the Big Valley fire crew have also been busy with medical calls.

Both local chiefs remind people to be safe in their homes that reflects the theme of Fire-Prevention Week – “Stay Fire Smart – Don’t Get Burned.”

“We encourage everyone to have a working smoke detector in their home,” said Deputy Chief Brugman.

“It’s an incredible lifesaver.”

“In a high number of house fires where people die, smoke detectors were not working or not installed in the home,” said Deputy Chief Brugman.

“You need to be warned to survive a fire,”

“It’s the smoke that kills you,” added Fire Chief Dennis.

Stettler Regional Fire Rescue was established in 2005 by the Town of Stettler, the County of Stettler, the villages of Big Valley, Botha, and Donalda and the summer villages of Rochon Sands and White Sands with a fire chief hired in September that year.

Fire Chief Dennis has set several goals to improve the services to the community:

• Develop a strategic fire master plan to accomplish intermediate and long-term goals for equipment replacement, equipment inspection and maintenance, resource efficiencies, staff training and member recruitment and retention.

• Enhance the delivery of fire prevention and suppression throughout the region.

• Enhance the level of service for each fire station and develop one set of standard operating guidelines which will result in efficiencies in emergency services and limit municipal liability.

• Develop a reliable and sustainable regional emergency services communication platform/base for 911 paging and dispatch communication coverage within the Stettler region.

All these targets are regularly reviewed and updated.