The Swift Current Fire Department is taking a look back at everything that happened in 2023.
The previous year was one with active need for the Fire Department, in a wide array of scenarios. Fires, medical episodes, and a whole lot more got the fire crews up, dressed, and out the door as fast as possible.
An exceptional incident that many people will remember was the flooding of the Swift Current Creek. With water levels threatening to encroach on some of the more creek-adjacent homes, the Fire Department helped to implement sandbags and other barricades.
For Swift Current Fire Department Fire Chief, Ryan Hunter, it became apparent that they need to be ready for these flood events, as they are no longer a once-in-50 or 25-year event.
"We've adjusted our flood plan and our city plan," said Hunter. "We're going to send some staff away to get extra training, because the one in 50 or the one in 25-year floods, those numbers just aren't there anymore. It's coming far more often than what the original plan accounted for."
The Chief also pointed to how in 2023, there was a fire fatality in Swift Current for the first time since 1989. The fire occurred on March 14, at 49 Sixth Avenue Northeast in Swift Current.
"That's never a good outcome," said Hunter. "[Not having had a fatality since 1989] shows that our fire prevention work is effective, and the people are listening to our messages. But, when you have a fatality, that is never a good thing."
The Fire Department does plenty of work in the community to communicate safety and prevention. Whether it's bringing in kids to tour and learn about the fire station, or having members go to classrooms to educate them directly, they are always pushing just how crucial fire safety is.
Even with all those efforts, the Fire Department saw an increase in calls for fire in 2023. The biggest offender for them was cooking-related fires.
"There are so many fires where people get distracted, whether they get on an electrical device or whether they are so tired they ended up laying down to take a nap or whatever it may be," said Hunter. "Our unintended cooking fires are the majority of what starts fires in Swift Current. That stat is very high compared to past years."
Another big occurrence in 2023 was the retirement of Swift Current Fire Department Captain, Trevor Braun. His retirement came after 30 years of firefighting, with a medal presentation at Swift Current city council.
Braun's retirement of course opened up a few promotions at the Fire Department. Regan Darby was promoted to Captain, and Jonathan England was promoted to Lieutenant.
"It's always bittersweet because, through retirements, we lose a person who has been on duty for 25 years," said Hunter. "That's a lot of experience, and that's a sad thing to see. However, when another member takes over, with our career succession plan, it's always exciting to see the new changes and the new interest, and the new direction they want to take. Those are very, very, very positive."
More growth occurred as the Fire Department hired two new members, after going through the new-hire testing at the Fire Department. Both Bailey Habsheid and Tanner McKechnie are now proud members of the team.
"They're definitely set for long careers in the fire service because they certainly have the right attitude," said Hunter. "Service to the public is what their goal is."
A very irregular call came in June to the Fire Department when a plane was making an emergency landing on the Trans-Canada Highway in Swift Current. Fire crews went out and assisted the plane in getting off the highway after the pilot made a safe landing.
"That was something that we don't normally deal with, so the crews did a great job of securing that," said Hunter.
Of course, the new year is already here, with things already in motion. The Fire Department for instance has already been working alongside the City to purchase a new fire engine to replace an aging 2022 truck in its fleet.
"We certainly try to get 25 years out of our trucks and that is longer than some other communities in Saskatchewan," said Hunter. "We take care of our trucks very, very well. The truck we're replacing is 22 years old. The reason city council has approved [getting a new truck now] is the build time on these trucks is anywhere from two to four years."
The new truck is expected to arrive in 2025, or possibly later. Its total cost will ding the City budget by $1.3 million.
With 2023 in the rearview, the Fire Department will be pressing onward into 2024 the same as it always does. Training, preparing, and ready to respond to the call.