If you’ve been following our website in the recent months, you have seen quite a few fires reported on, many of them in Oxford. We have gotten several questions and comments both on social media and on our website wondering why there are so many fires in that town lately.
THE LAKE 940 reached out to Deputy Fire Chief of Oxford, Jon Belanger, who tells us there really is no need for concern.
“Oxford Fire-EMS responds to an average of about twenty major fire related incidents per year. I believe this year seems to be busier than others due to the increased media coverage and the frequency of the fires we have responded to.”
There are four categories that are used to determine fires. They are: accidental, incendiary, natural or undetermined. Deputy Chief Belanger tells us, out of the 16 fires so far in 2018, “none have been determined to be suspicious/incendiary in nature” and “there is currently no need for elevated public concern in our town.”
Deputy Chief Belanger noted in 2017 his department responded to 17 incidents in the time period of January to mid-May, so far this year they have responded to 16 structure/building fires, brush fires, vehicle fires, and all other fire related incidents.
“Of these numbers, in 2017 we responded to 5 building/structure fires and in 2018 we have responded to 7 year-to-date. I would like to stress that these numbers are fire related incident only.”
Those numbers don’t include the hundreds of other calls that Oxford Fire-EMS receives for the other items their firefighters and paramedics are trained for. Deputy Chief Belanger tells us, “Even though our name is Fire-EMS we consider ourselves an all hazards department. We respond to a variety of incidents and we have staff who are trained in specialties as well. The other types of incidents we respond to include false alarms, motor vehicle accidents, Technical/Dive rescue, Hazmat, water emergencies, carbon monoxide incidents, and just about anything/everything in between.”
Oxford Fire-EMS is made up up 18 full-time firefighters and EMTs/Paramedics and 16 on-call members, with an additional 5 to 8 being recruited to begin after July 1st.
Wondering about some of the terms that firefighters use, we asked Deputy Chief Belanger how they determine whether a fire is a 2 alarm or 3 alarm. He told THE LAKE 940, “The decision to upgrade the alarm is solely on the incident commander who continually sizes up the incident and determines what type of additional resources may be needed.”
As for mutual aid, another term you may have heard, that is when a surrounding town is called in to help battle a blaze. Oxford has automatic mutual aid from Auburn Fire with a rapid intervention team and an additional engine on stand by, ready to act if a firefighter should become lost, injured, or disoriented. Oxford Fire-EMS also has an ambulance from Webster EMS respond to the scene for the safety of any civilians and the firefighters.
Belanger says, “From this point, if the alarm is upgraded to a second alarm, this brings in additional mutual aid to the scene and to cover the stations and our town while we are operating on the emergency scene. The station coverage also provides for a quick response from additional resources if needed. The second and subsequent alarms are designed to bring in additional fire engines, aerial devices, ambulances, and specialty equipment as dictated by the need of the incident.
If you were wondering, does Oxford pay other towns to come in to help out? The answer is no. “The key term is mutual aid, this means it’s mutual. You help me today, I will help you tomorrow. It is always free of charge to the requesting department. The cost is to pay back to aid when another department needs it.” Deputy Chief Belanger says his department is very lucky that all of the area departments work well together.
And we are lucky to have a dedicated crew of fine men and women in all of the local fire and police departments in this area. Thank you for all that you do on a daily basis for keeping our friends and family safe.