Perry Township Fire Chief Doug Messimer stands next to one of the engines in the north station. Messimer took over as chief in August after previously serving as assistant chief and captain. He has served 10 years with Perry Township, but has also served at least 19 years with the Green Township Fire Department as a firefighter/EMT. Anyone interested in joining the fire service at Perry Township can call 330-332-4676, leave their name, contact information and reason for calling. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

SALEM — Perry Township firefighters handled more calls last year, with Chief Doug Messimer attributing the increase to more medicals and the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year he would like to see an increase in the number of firefighters — special people who want to answer the call to serve their fellow residents no matter the circumstances.

“You’re in it to help the people, the township that needs your help. You’re here to take care of them,” Messimer said.

As part of that, he said volunteers need to know that they’ll be going to more EMS calls than anything else. Assistant Chief Brandon Smith said they also need to realize the time it takes away from family and the requirements for state-certified continuing education hours every three years.

For firefighters, that’s 54 hours of continuing education. For EMTs, 40 hours are required every three years.

“They gotta want to do it,” Smith said.

Volunteers need to be 18 years old or older and have a high school diploma or G.E.D. If interested, call 330-332-4676, leave name, contact information and the reason for calling. Messimer said they’ll be sent for firefighter training at an accredited training facility which entails 120 plus hours of training that’s required before a volunteer can enter a burning structure.

The department also holds its own training from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Thursday and has 17 total firefighters, including the chief. There are eight firefighters who are EMS certified, six with basic training and two with emergency medical responder training.

Messimer welcomed anyone with experience to step forward, too.

“We’d really like to get some more people involved with the department,” he said.

According to the 2021 incident report, there were 402 total calls, which is more than the 362 calls in 2020. Medical assists or assists of EMS crews increased from 146 in 2020 to 208 in 2021. Emergency Medical Service calls stayed even at two both years. EMS calls excluding motor vehicle accidents with injuries decreased from 63 to 27. Motor vehicle accidents with injuries increased from 17 to 21. Pedestrian accidents increased from zero to one. Motor vehicle accidents with no injuries decreased from 17 to 14.

There were less fires in 2021, with 27 in the various categories of fire last year and 35 in the previous year. Building fires decreased from nine to six and outside rubbish or trash fires decreased from 17 to 13. The other fire numbers didn’t change much, with one each in 2021 in the categories of fire in structure other than a building, fire in portable fixed location building, passenger vehicle, road freight or transport vehicle, rail vehicle, off-road vehicle or heavy equipment fire.

Gas leaks stayed at three both years, oil or combustible liquid spills decreased from one to zero, carbon monoxide incidents increased from one to two, electrical wiring issues increased from one to two, overheated motors increased from zero to one, power lines down increased from two to eight and smoke scares/odors increased from two to seven.

The department also answered a handful of calls or less each for severe weather, smoke detectors, alarm systems, water problems, lockouts, assists, etc. The department responded to fires in other jurisdictions as mutual aid 22 times and received mutual aid four times.

Of all the calls, 271 were EMS-related and 131 were fire or non-EMS. Total personnel responding to the calls were 1,593, but that’s over the entire year and represents multiple people who responded to multiple calls. The township started a per-call pay program last year, which Smith said has helped pay for wear and tear on personal vehicles.

Most calls occurred during the daylight hours, with 172 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., 162 between 4 p.m. and midnight and 68 in the wee hours from midnight to 8 a.m. More calls involved the southern half of the township, with 276 south of State Street and 126 north of State Street. Out of the fire department fleet, Engine 72 responded to the most calls with 284. Next was the rescue truck with 87, Engine 76 with 77, Grass Unit 71 with 69, the utility truck with 61, and Tanker 74 with 13.

Messimer said he’s still working on an automatic mutual aid agreement with surrounding departments which would have them automatically called to respond to a Perry Township fire instead of waiting to be called. He said the agreements are needed to ensure enough people are there when there’s a fire.

He also wants to add some equipment this year, such as a battery-operated jaws system with a cutter and spreader. The department is expecting to have a fundraising breakfast this spring. Last year a pasta dinner was held, with the proceeds used to purchase a multi-gas/carbon monoxide detection meter. He said the Perry Township Trustees have been good about equipment purchases.

Messimer suggested residents call the direct emergency line 330-332-3000, which goes straight to dispatch, when they have an emergency.

“Looking forward to a new year and trying to get more accomplished,” he said.

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