Annual fire department report shows record-setting number of calls for service as well as hours of training

YORK – York Fire Chief Tony Bestwick’s annual report included a record-setting number of calls for service as well as a record number of training hours for career and volunteer members.

“This will be remembered as a year of positive change,” Bestwick told the York City Council as he met with them this past week. “Besides setting a record for the number of calls for service at 1,681, we also set a record for the number of hours of training for a year with 3,689 hours. Our volunteer firefighters and ETMs responded to 732 instances where we needed their assistance for calls. While our volume of calls was not positive, the number of training hours was.”

He outlined activities for each month of 2023, noting in January they started an internal Firefighter I class. “This means all the instructors were York Fire Department personnel,” Bestwick explained. “We had 13 students, three of them from the York Fire Department. We also started the process of getting emergency medical dispatching going at our 911 communications center. This allows our dispatchers to give medical advice over the phone to get patient care started (while the response team is on the way).”

In February, they implemented their “chase vehicle concept to allow flexibility for our shifts with the increase of cluster calls or when we have more than one call going at the same time. The shift captain responds with our pickup and goes to assist with calls. If another call comes in while we are out and our shift captain deems it necessary to respond to the second call, he can now do so. We have equipped this pickup with some medical supplies if there is a delay in the ambulance getting out. We also started data collection for the Center for Medicaid and Medicare. This involves us coming with Excel spreadsheets to gather the required information for them. Pellie Thomas (city treasurer) is assisting us with the financial side of this report. Also in February, Tom Bredwell retired and Charles Carter was hired to replace him.”

March was an equally busy month. Chief Bestwick said, as all 13 Firefighter 1 students passed their testing.

In April, the department introduced Dr. Pat Hotovy as “our new physician medical director. He will be an active participant in our training and quality assurance program,” the chief said. “Right now, his goal is to review 25% of our monthly EMS calls and approve changes to our protocols. He attended our 40-hour paramedic refresher course we started in the winter. Also in April, our new Squad 10 was showcased at the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis. And in April as well, we attended a Nebraska Public Power District rescue drill.”

In May, members of the department attended Career Day at the York Middle School and flew the flag for the Peyton Parker Lane Playground grand opening. The York Rural Fire Board took delivery of a new tanker and “we also took delivery of our new Squad 10. Also in May, the city administrator and I came up with a Request for Qualifications to start the process of hiring an architect for the new fire station.”

Bestwick noted there were two house fires in June and because it was so dry, they responded to many grass fires that month.

In July, the department received the rescue tools which were purchased with a $53,000 donation. “This freed up a small set of hydraulic rescue tools we put on our engine. So we started sending our engine second on car accidents with injuries, which improves our response because we now have water on board when using our extrication tools on the scene,” he said.

He said a highlight of August was recruiting volunteer firefighters.

September included the annual pancake feed during Yorkfest which brought in 650 attendees.

In October, they updated their EMS protocols with the medical director and started volunteer firefighter stipends. Also in October, the fire prevention program was provided for more than 500 kids and adults. He also noted they responded to a large house fire with substantial damage.

In November, the department conducted fire extinguisher training and personnel participated in the York Elementary School career day. There were also design meetings for the new fire station and a new fire academy class was started. Also in November, Chief Bestwick said Dr. Hotovy provided a new medication class for career staff.

“December was busy with cold weather and Christmas Day car accidents with injuries,” Chief Bestwick said, noting the difficult work during extreme weather. But he also noted a happy event in which York Fire delivered Santa to the holiday celebration downtown.

In summary, Chief Bestwick said, “we are blessed to have a city administration which supports us. As of today, we are close to a design for our new fire station and it will be our honor to present that design to our city council. This will serve this community for generations to come and will be built as a combination fire station. I’m happy to say it’s pretty much designed – we have presented the plans to the asset committee and will be coming to the council with those plans soon. It was a really good year. I am proud of our people, who are very valuable assets to the city of York.”

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