COVID Helps Fuel City’s Busiest Firefighter Year | Local news
New Castle Fire Department 2021 calls
The New Castle Fire Department had its busiest year on record in 2021.
But it wasn’t the flames that raised the temperature. On the contrary, the majority of the department’s 3,430 calls – an increase of 442 from 2020 – were for medical assistance, and most of them were related to COVID.
“We’re actually seeing a 70-30 split, with the medical being 70 percent,” said Chief Michael Kobbe. “A large portion of them are either COVID or suspected of COVID.
“If the person has symptoms consistent with potential COVID, we treat them 100% as COVID. “
However, the department was prepared for it even before the pandemic took hold in March 2020.
“We actually changed our protocols in 2019 when it comes to our normal responses to increase our level of PPE, no matter what call we make,” Kobbe said. “We provide each guy with his own safety glasses, we provide each person with the N95 (mask) and we have several extras on the truck and a supply of gloves.
“So we are treating every call as a potential COVID. “
New Castle is not alone.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, while fire calls in the United States fell 53% between 1980 and 2020, EMS calls soared 370%.
New Castle firefighters, however, appear to be dealing with it.
“It hasn’t really given us any problems other than being busier,” Kobbe said. “We have the core staff to handle this kind of situation. In the end, that just means more call volume for the guys who are on duty.
“I would be remiss if I said I have enough manpower – I don’t have any. We would love to have 40 guys working here, but given the financial climate and everything else, it’s kind of where we have to live, within these limits. So we make do with what we have.
And what they have will get a little bigger in the spring, when the ministry expects to take possession of a new fire truck and an aerial tower.
“We buy units from stock, so they won’t be customized – they won’t be built to our specifications – but the price is better on a unit from stock, and for a custom unit you are 12-14 months of production.” , Kobbe said.
“We’ve seen the value and the need, and the other thing is these have been in circulation on demo circuits, and they’ve got about a thousand miles on them. In those thousands of miles they’ve probably fixed most of the bugs, and the warranty is from the time we pick up the truck.
Staffing is also improving, if not in numbers, at least in capacity.
“We just completed our whitewater rescue certification,” Kobbe said, noting that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission was in town on Monday to inspect the department. “We are now officially a certified whitewater team.
“Now this year we are working on getting our diving certification to have a certified dive rescue team.”
The ministry will also continue to work with neighboring municipalities to provide and receive mutual aid as needed.
“The number of self-help services has increased slightly, by around 10% compared to last year (2020),” Kobbe said. “As for the people who come to town to help us, that really hasn’t changed much.
“We are grateful to Union Township, Shenango Township – they often come to help us. We have a new relationship with Hickory Township. We help them, they help us. So it’s nice to see the door open in both directions.