Medical runs booming

Becky Vargo • Mar 5, 2018 at 10:00 AM

The continued aging of Baby Boomers is contributing to the upward trend of medical runs by Northwest Ottawa County fire departments, with all but Grand Haven City reporting a record number of runs in 2017.

A population increase will also have an impact.

“For us, these numbers will continue to increase as the Spring Lake area continues to see growth with numerous subdivisions being constructed and the older population,” said Spring Lake Fire Chief Brian Sipe. 

The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety – where all officers are cross-trained for both police and fire services — handled a total of 1,633 fire department runs in 2017. That’s down from 1,736 the previous year.

GHDPS Director Jeff Hawke noted that officers also respond to an average of 8,500 police calls for service each year.

“Emergency medical calls will represent the most frequent call type by far for departments that provide the service,” Hawke said.

There were 944 medical responses made by GHDPS officers in 2017. In 2012, the department handled 778 medical runs.

The director noted an increase in calls in Grand Haven during the day with people working in the city.

“The same holds true in the summer, with beach goers, vacationers and daily visitors,” Hawke said. “Large-scale special events bring many people to the Grand Haven area.”

Grand Haven Township Fire Chief Tom Gerencer said the department, which includes several paramedics, handled 788 medical rescue calls in 2017. That’s up from 574 in 2012 and 403 in 2007.

The Township Fire/Rescue department is funded by a millage. Last year’s budget was $1,275,580.

That funds a salaried fire chief, six full time staff paid hourly and 25 part time employees.

Gerencer said that this allows the Township to staff the fire station with two people around the clock every day of the year.

“Having two staff members at the station ready to respond at all times makes a significant difference when time is working against our customer,” Gerencer said. The brain dies within six minutes after a customer stops breathing. And fire doubles in size every 30 seconds when the customer’s home is on fire.”

Spring Lake firefighters made 1,111 runs in 2017, with 812 of those being medical-related incidents, Sipe said. Those numbers have risen steadily since the 2007 total of 941 runs.

The year 2017 proved to be a year of record and a year of change for the Ferrysburg Fire Department, according to Chief Mike Olthof.

“In 2017 our department recorded its highest number of incidents in its 54-year history,” Olthof reported.

They responded to 254 calls for help, with 117 of those being medical or rescue calls. The last time the record was set was in 2005 with 226 calls.

Olthof said 77 were fire-related calls and 60 were for mutual aid to other departments. In turn, mutual aid was provided to Ferrysburg six times.

The chief said the average response time for the all paid-on-call department was five minutes and 17 seconds. They averaged seven firefighters responding per call.

Olthof said Ferrysburg has 16 paid-on-call firefighters, but it’s always a challenge to keep those ranks filled.

The big change in the department came in the retirements of 18-year veteran Lt. Tom Miller on July 1, 2017, and of 38-year veteran Assistant Fire Chief Tuc Bosch on Dec. 30, 2017.

“These two gentlemen were instrumental in molding the Ferrysburg Fire Department into the excellent department we have today,” Olthof said.

Robinson Township firefighters – all paid-on-call – responded to 271 calls in 2017, up from 225 in 2007 and 258 in 2012.

Chief Paul VanVelzen said the annual budget is around $300,000 and that there are 24 paid-on-call firefighters on the department.

Crockery Township firefighters responded to 330 calls in 2017, up from 326 in 2013, but down from 353 in 2007.


So, how many fires did the fire departments handle?

These include structure, vehicle and wild fires.

Crockery Township responded to 36 fire runs in 2017, up from 19 in 2013 and 21 in 2007.

The Crockery Township population was about 3,429 in 2016.

Robinson Township handled 30 fire runs in 2017, down from 40 in 2012 and 39 in 2007. The township population is about 6,500.

Spring Lake Township handled 35 fire related incidents in 2017.

Ferrysburg handled 77 fire-related calls in 2017.

Grand Haven Township responded to 48 fire calls in 2017, as compared to 44 in 2012 and 34 in 2007.

The GHDPS was sent to 35 fire calls in 2017, compared to 45 calls in 2012. They also responded to 161 false alarm/fire alarm calls in 2017, compared to 150 of those calls in 2012.

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