CALCUTTA-The Calcutta Volunteer Fire Department responded to a record number of calls in 2013, but surprisingly, the majority of calls were not for fires.
According to department officials, firefighters responded to a wide range of emergency situations, from vehicle accident extrications to pumping out flooded basements.
The 33-member department logged a department record 256 calls in 2013, a considerable increase from 199 response calls in 2012, and 219 in 2011. Of these 256 calls, only about 15 were structure fires - eight such fires in the township, while the rest were to provide mutual aid to other departments in places like Liverpool Township, Negley and West Point. Most of the structure fires occurred at single-family dwellings, but two were in boarding homes or multi-family dwellings.
"We've probably had more house fires than we've had in a while," said Calcutta Fire Chief Scott Smith.
While the number of structure fires may have risen, other type of fire emergencies like vehicle fires declined. The department responded to five vehicle fires ranging from those involving motorhomes and recreational vehicles to cases of a fire in the engine compartments of passenger vehicles.
The Calcutta VFD answered nine calls regarding outdoor fires including brush fires and dumpster fires
Despite the many different types of fires the department responded to in 2013, the majority of calls were not related to fires but rather to assist EMS personnel. Firefighters assisted EMS personnel on 20 occasions in 2013, which accounted for about 8 percent of all calls received.
False alarms and "canceled en route" calls accounted for the largest number of calls. Calcutta's volunteer firefighters were toned out 44 times in 2013, only to receive word while on their way to the scene that there was no need for them to respond.
Smith explained that in many instances false alarms happen when the station is called to provide mutual aid to another department, but are later told they are not needed. He explained that many, if not most, of the false alarm calls are triggered by alarm drops at businesses which turn out to be a problem with the alarm system.
"A lot of the times the alarm company calls us and we get canceled before we actually get out (to the scene)," said Smith.
The department's year-end report demonstrates the sheer variety of calls that the VFD receives in a year's time and the versatile training and tools and training they need to respond. From assisting in the search for a missing man in Beaver Creek State Park last summer to responding to the scene of bomb threat at Walmart in April 2013, volunteers do much more than put out fires.
"Every call is different," said Smith, "We never know what we're going to be called to next."