Despite cut in calls, firefighters have ‘plenty to do’

Firefighter Jake Lambert, left, and Capt. Chris Hughes inspect the tools on one of AFD’s trucks.

Despite a new dispatch protocol that has dramatically reduced the number of medical incidents to which they are dispatched, Atmore firefighters won’t be spending their days sitting around the station and waiting for their next emergency callout.

“We’ve still got plenty to do,” said Fire Chief Ron Peebles. “We’re still going to stay busy. We do a lot of things that people don’t even know we do.”

In fact, the fire chief said, the lull created by the decrease in non-emergency responses after more than a year of piggy-backing ambulance calls will give his personnel a chance to maintain the rigid training regimen required to keep local fire insurance rates as low as possible.

“This will allow us a lot more time for training,” said Peebles. “Every man has to have 16 hours a month of structural firefighting training to meet ISO (Insurance Service Office) requirements.”

Next in importance is the maintenance of all vehicles and equipment used in emergency rescue and fire suppression operations.

“We test all of our equipment — our trucks, our Jaws of Life, our hand tools and our gas-powered tools — daily, to make sure they are in good working condition,” he continued. “Actually, this (fewer non-emergency medical calls) will give us a little more time to do that.”

There are plenty of other routine tasks that help occupy a local fireman’s time.

“We’ll be starting the hydrant testing soon, making sure that each one in the city is pushing the right volume of water at the right pressure,” Peebles pointed out.

“We do a walk-through each week at city parks, inspecting the swings, monkey bars, slides and other equipment to make sure they’re safe. We do public assistance, like responding when a lady fell in her yard recently and there wasn’t an ambulance available, and we have our mutual aid agreements with Escambia County in Florida, with Poarch and with the county’s volunteer fire departments.”

Mayor Jim Staff noted that firefighters are almost always busy when he visits the department’s two stations, but added that they are always willing to pitch in when they are needed for jobs outside the realm of their regular duties.

“They’re usually checking out their equipment and the trucks, and a lot of times there will be several of them huddled up together, studying for some test,” he said. “They do a lot of things for the people of Atmore, and for the city, that don’t have anything to do with fighting fires. They pressure washed the seats at the high school football stadium before last season started, they helped clean the middle school when the new principal took over, and they even built a pole barn for the city sanitation department.

“We have some good people in our fire department. They do anything you ask of them, and they do a good job of it.”