Nebraska’s rural fire departments say despite spike in calls, they’re ready for 2023

LINCOLN, Neb (KLKN) – Many fires sparked across Nebraska last year, including wildfires just outside Lincoln.

Several rural fire departments said they’ve worked hard to handle the high number of calls, and a couple reported a record number of responses in 2022.

That includes the York Fire Department.

Chief Tony Bestwick said rural firefighting is different than in the city because instead of being assigned to one truck, workers do a bit of everything.

“Being a small, combination fire department, our people have to know anywhere from EMS calls, they have to be able to go on fire calls, they have to be able to run our 100-foot aerial platform, do tanker operations,” Bestwick said. “They basically need to know everything about firefighting.”

He said last year, multiple people in the department received new medical licenses or certifications, including emergency medical technician, advanced EMT, paramedic, EMS instructor, and fire instructor.

SEE ALSO: York Fire Department responded to record number of calls in 2022

The Seward Volunteer Fire Department also had a record number of fire and rescue calls last year, with 756 calls requiring a response.

Training Officer Landon Dirks said other challenges for rural firefighters are the variety of calls they get and having to bring water and equipment to calls.

“We have to have tankers in our fleet. We have to have grass rigs in our fleet to deal with grass fires,” he said. “It differs, the apparatus.”

Dirks said rural departments spend more per capita on equipment than urban ones.

SEE ALSO: Kearney volunteer firefighters respond to ‘unprecedented amount of calls’

Assistant Training Officer Tayler Mifflin said the department has conducted over 1,200 hours of training to prepare their firefighters and EMTs.

“We’re actually sitting in a really good spot right now; all of our members are trained to the max,” he said. “They’re putting the time in, and we have a great influx of people coming in right now.”

The department doesn’t require people to have a background in firefighting to join because it will be holding several training classes this year.

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