The Wheeling Fire Department announced Thursday the department hit a historic milestone in 2021, making it the busiest year on record for incidents. The department previously had a record-breaking year for calls in 2019, however, 2021 exceeded those numbers by an overall increase of 9%.
“Overall, the department as a whole had a very productive year,” said Fire Chief Jim Blazier. “Medical related emergencies have been on the uptick for the last decade, but 2021 recorded the highest call volume to date. I applaud our fire personnel, paramedics and EMTs who go on multiple ambulance and emergency runs a day to aid those needing our assistance.”
Medical/EMS calls for 2021 totaled 5,313, which accounts for roughly 68% of all departmental related incidents. This is up nearly 20% from the previous year.
“The first and last parts of 2021 saw significant rises in COVID-19 related illnesses. We believe that was one of the main contributors with the increase of medical/EMS related calls. Other factors that attributed to the rise in our ambulance services are calls pertaining to our aging population and the increase in vehicular traffic, which brought with it several crash related injuries,” Chief Blazier added.
Overall, total departmental incidents for 2021 tallied up to 7,849, up nearly 14% from 2020. Officials believe the increase was due to the return of festivals, sporting events and activities that requested or required departmental presence or response.
Fire calls have continued to decline over the years. In 2021, they dropped 14% from 2020. Other reductions from the prior year included good intent calls, hazmat situations and other non-fire related calls.
A category on the upswing was false fire alarms, up roughly 17%. Officials believe this is mostly because schools, restaurants and businesses were back to normal, and more construction/renovation related work in buildings around the city that prompted an accidental fire alarm activation.
Outside of the statistics, the chief said he is pleased most of last year’s emergency response efforts east of the Wheeling Tunnel did not experience any major delays when transporting patients to the hospital. He thanks the traveling public for sharing the road and being patient, especially along the I-70 detour route in the Fulton area.
“Last year, we got through challenging traffic obstacles with I-70 east being closed, which restricting quick access to Wheeling Hospital. The re-opening of the interstate – in both directions – is a relief to emergency responders,” said Blazier.
The chief also noted last year, the city purchased and put two new Ford F-450 ambulances into service, enhancing the department’s aging fleet. Another new addition was a brand-new ladder truck, now housed at the department’s headquarters in Center Wheeling.
Chief Blazier said the department remains committed to serving the residents and visitors to the City of Wheeling in 2022 and is excited for the future.
“This year will bring much anticipated enthusiasm to the Wheeling Fire Department. This spring, WFD will break ground on a new headquarters in East Wheeling, with the hopes of occupying it by early 2023. We also are eagerly awaiting a brand-new engine truck for our Warwood fire house in the fall. I am thankful to city council and our city manager who continue to invest in our public safety services,” Blazier said.
Calls for service are categorized by the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) Code Guide. A breakdown of the 2021 calls are as follows:
2021 Total Calls for Service: 7,849