A new program at the Beiseker Volunteer Fire Department aims to cut down response times, while increasing safety in the area, by ensuring the facility is staffed around the clock.
According to volunteer firefighter Mitch Diddams, the Beiseker station is virtually capable of responding to fires in other communities faster than fire departments in those communities could, as many small towns depend on the responses of volunteers who live within a 15-minute radius.
When a call is received, he said, volunteer firefighters often have to leave their homes, travel to the station to gear up, then travel to the location of the emergency.
“If you look at our response time for Irricana, it will technically be faster than Irricana’s [department] because we’re here – we get geared up and we’ll go into town right [as Irricana crews] are coming into town to get into their trucks, and then go to wherever the call is,” Diddams said.
This improved response time is the result of a program that allows the Beiseker station to be occupied 24-hours a day.
According to Diddams, more than 50 firefighters from across the province volunteer at the station, signing up for 24-hour shifts through an app.
Volunteers typically serve two full days at the station each month, he said.
“Our guys are at the hall – they live there, they sleep there, they eat there for 24-hour shifts,” he said. “There’s nowhere else in North America that runs the way that Beiseker runs.”
To ensure the operation runs smoothly, Diddams said, he is “permanently on call.”
“If anything major happens, I’m coming into town to assist,” he said.
There are six volunteers firefighters who live in Beiseker – the rest come from Calgary, Okotoks, Edmonton and other locations across the province. According to Diddams, there are benefits to the volunteers who offer up their time and effort.
“They’re going to get the training and they’re going to get the courses that are going to allow them to apply to other departments,” he said. “I’m going to be committed to developing this program and making it functional.”
Diddams added the program is ideal for firefighters who can’t immediately get jobs with other stations. Many stations prefer firefighters gain experience before applying, while others simply don’t have a position available. He said this is an opportunity to take on shifts and increase skills.
According to the Village of Beiseker council minutes from Feb. 25, a motion was made requiring “Chief [Bob] Ursu and Deputy Fire Chief [Dave] McKenzie to continue with the effort to maintain a 24/7 fire department for Beiseker for a period of six months.” If the project is not successful, the motion read, alternatives for fire protection would be discussed with Rocky View County (RVC).”
The Village of Beiseker currently funds the department, said Mayor Warren Wise, adding the Village also receives some funding from RVC because Beiseker crews assists with other fires in the county. He adds the program has been successful, to this point.
“As it turns out…we are now becoming the prime fire department in RVC,” Wise said.
Diddams agreed, adding, the program is showing a lot of promise.“It is growing, it is developing. The relationships are getting better – the system is much better than it was years ago,” he said.