Those who live in the Yankee Springs/Wayland Fire Department coverage area get two fire department coverage for the price of one, said Deputy Fire Chief Dan Miller.
When there’s a fire, Barry Central Dispatch tones out both departments at the same time and the combined station responds; they also assists surrounding township departments.
The Yankee Springs Fire Department was formed April 1, 2016, with the approval of the Yankee Springs Fire Committee. The Wayland City Council and the Yankee Springs Township Board contracted with WFD for an initial five year contract.
The satellite fire station on Payne Lake Road was built in the late 1990s; the building of a fire department there and merger with Wayland Fire Department came after years of dissention about the cost of Thornapple Township Emergency Services contracts for fire and ambulance protection.
In a separate agreement, Yankee Springs Township residents are also served by WAEMS ambulance service based in Wayland. In the beginning, from April to October, Miller was at the station 20 hours a week setting up the department, inventory of vehicles and equipment and recruiting. He now works a minimum of 20 hours, or more, depending on demand.
“The biggest hurdle was recruitment. The eight applicants were not certified, so I set up an academy in September 2016 for firefighter one and two to graduate in May of 2017.
In May through August of 2016, they took training to become Medical First Responders (MFRs).
“Medical First Responders are a big asset to the citizens and the service,” he said.
In the first partial year, the department responded to 176 medical calls and 56 fires; in its first full year, 2017, they handled 219 medicals and 75 fire calls.//
To date, the Yankee Springs station has 14 certified firefighters, four probationary. On the medical side they have two paramedics, four EMTs, and six MFRs Miller said.
Equipment includes a Lucas automatic defibrillator, a fire rescue boat, new Genesis Jaws of Life, one engine, one tanker, two Jeeps from the DNR, and a multi-purpose vehicle that pumps water, stores medical supplies and is used for traffic control.
Wayland Fire Department has 26 firefighters with three in training, two EMTs, two MFR and five taking MFR training that Wayland’s Fire Chief Joe Miller and WAEMS Director Bob Hess set up.
Recruitment is ongoing through flyers, social media, and an electronic sign at the Yankee Springs station.
“We are two separate departments with our own identities on our equipment and clothing, but we are one department at the scene,” Miller said. “For the first time, we can help surrounding agencies. Both responding at the same time is a big plus. We work well with Central Dispatch and have since the beginning.
“It does my heart good to see the people who stop in weekly to see us open and having taxpayer dollars spent locally, Miller said. He works closely with the township, without almost daily contact and credits the board for its support in getting it up and running with personnel and equipment.
Miller likes the department being involved in the community. A veterans monument is being installed at the station and a large cardboard sign in the window with either the word High in red or Low in green on burning conditions for residents considering getting a burn permit is set daily by the DNR.
An electronic sign at the corner has general information for residents and visitors including blood drives, cleanup events and other activities. “We also install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors for free and give demonstrations and presentations,” Miller said.
They will be Tyden Park in Hastings for the second National Night Out in August to show the public the equipment they use in their jobs and answer any questions. Eventually, Miller would like to see a crew of 25 at Yankee Springs.