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Fire Department Sees Decrease In Calls
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Showing an 8 percent decrease from 2008, the calendar year of 2009 saw Escalon fire crews responding to a total of 954 calls. That was down from 1,038 in 2008.

"That's an average of 2.61 calls per day," said Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello. "Our busiest month was April, when we had 104 calls. That's unusual for a busy month, in 2008, May, July and December were the busiest."

The 2008 figures, he noted, were on the high side, as the 2007 count was 995 total calls and 2006 was 852.

"2008 was unusual in that we had 96 calls in November and 104 in December and that is really high for that time of year," he explained.

For 2009, the department's majority of calls were for medical aid.

"It was up 5 percent, with 69.9 percent of our calls being medical, it was 64.9 percent last year," Mello said.

Busiest months for fires, of all types, were May and July, each coming in with 13 fire calls.

"For vehicle accidents, the busiest month was August with 12, which I think is kind of typical," Mello said, noting that traffic through the area increases in the summer.

February, the shortest month, also had the fewest total calls with 68. April, the busiest month in terms of calls for medical aid, had 69 EMS calls alone.

"Major fires this year, our biggest fires were Halloween night, when we had double structure fires," Mello said.

One call, on Burwood, came in during the evening hours of Halloween, Oct. 31 and a few hours later, in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, a fire on Stanislaus Street had firefighters going from one major call to another.

"August only had three fires and that included wildland and vegetation, so that is really unusual," Mello said of having a quieter than normal fire season this past summer.

Mello is slated to present the year's calls, broken down by month and type, to Escalon Consolidated Fie Protection District board members at their meeting Thursday night, Jan. 14 at the firehouse.

The department has also just completed its rotation of staff members, switching up the various shift teams. Battalion chiefs remain the same, but they now have new crew members.

A Shift includes Battalion Chief Randy Reid and firefighters Cassidy Bohannon and Ryan Burr. Reid oversees the equipment, facilities and grounds. B Shift Battalion Chief Terry Pinheiro, fire prevention and safety, now works with firefighters Matt Herrero and Gerardo Preciado. C Shift Battalion Chief Joe Pelot, training and operations, works with Mo Silva and Mike Rebensdorf.

"We continue with our 10 fulltime (chief and firefighters) and our reserves and volunteers," Mello said of staff.

The department also includes administrative secretary Donna Fourre.

There are eight volunteers and five reserves, with a background currently being done on a new volunteer expected to join the department soon.

Volunteers are Travis Bonds, Travis Chamberlain, Joe Collins, Ryan Esteves, Nate Keyser, Jake Merrill, Bob Rocha and Dave Velasco. Reserves are Jason Fuzie, Wes Helm, Jason Hernandez, Taylor Nored and Ray Whitler.

Reserves - who live outside the fire district - work 48 hours a month and are paid for the shifts they work. Volunteers live within the fire district and work on a monthly response and coverage system so the department has ample people responding to calls.

Mello said the Thursday night meeting will also include an update on staffing and training, in addition to a mid year budget review. The department's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

"So far we're where we should be," Mello said. "We're never at a point where we feel (financially) secure but right now we look okay."

The department is keeping an eye on a possible budget initiative that could close loopholes in the Proposition 1A legislation and provide additional funds to fire departments. Mello said that would be good news for the local department, which is working hard to continue providing services in tough economic times.

Much of the training is done in house and Mello said the department also received some grants this year to assist in putting on training programs.

Firefighters continue their community involvement as well, taking part in such activities as National Night Out, Christmas on Main and, this past Saturday, joining with Escalon Kiwanis and Key Club members for the annual Christmas tree pick up.

"We picked up 208 Christmas trees on Saturday," Mello said. "We had 13 fire department members there, 13 Key Club kids and four Kiwanis Club members."