NORTH PLATTE, Neb. -- The North Platte Fire Chief said they saw an increase in emergency medical calls and ambulance runs in 2016.
Dennis Thompson, said they were up 200 calls compared to the previous year, but there was a decline in fire calls, "When we talk about fire calls, we're talking about any time we roll a fire engine, it could be a car accident, structure fire, grass fire or even a gas leak, we saw a reduction there," he explained.
He attributes the increase in medical calls to automatic aid agreements with surrounding areas. "Volunteer departments across the state and across the nation are struggling, and it is good for us to help out and we are happy to assist," Thompson said.
So far, the additional agreements have not affected responding to local calls. Thompson said they are continuously monitoring the situation.
"I visited with our City Administrator and we have been monitoring how often we are out of our own district and if that is affecting our ability to take calls in the North Platte Fire District. We have not had any occasion where it's caused us a problem. We have not had to hire any additional staff. We will continue to monitor that situation real close so we can continue to provide the service expected of us," Thompson said.
In 2016, the department came in under budget. "Daily, we are looking at things, watching where we are making expenditures, we couldn't do it without the city's assistance" the Fire Chief said.
Thompson said they are keeping an eye on a few things while crafting next year's budget. "I guess one of the things that we always are real leery of is our aging fleet of equipment, we are certainly watching that, working with the city administration to address issues," he explained.
They will also consider training and overtime when crafting the next budget. "Training for our employees is always a big thing, as we look at budgets, we have to be real careful that we're not spreading ourselves too thin, and getting people to classes we try to do a lot of things in house," Thompson said.
The Fire Chief said at the end of the day, it's always a team effort, and the benefit is the best protection for the citizens of North Platte.
In the upcoming weeks, the fire dept., and the city will sit down to create next year's budget.