Firefighters from throughout Waupaca County and Waupaca County Emergency Management participated in a June 26 training exercise on the Weyauwega-Fremont school grounds.
“The training tonight is mostly for radio communications and firefighter accountability,” said Weyauwega Fire Chief Tom Cullen.
In last week’s scenario, a large fire was simulated on the Weyauwega campus.
“We’ve been working on this one year. Today is our last training. Everyone will bring their apparatus to Weyauwega,” he said.
The training was in preparation for joining MABAS Wisconsin (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System).
Last year, the fire chiefs voted to join MABAS Wisconsin, with Waupaca County then becoming the 42nd county in the state to do so. Waupaca County is Division 142.
The MABAS system allows fire departments – both large and small – to call for any fire suppression resources needed in their community from anywhere within the MABAS system without a charge to the community or the fire department, Cullen explained.
This system allows fire departments to preplan their districts into geographical areas, as well as for different types of emergency calls, he said.
The lists are on record at all of the fire departments in the county, and at the Waupaca County Communications Center.
Cullen said with this system in place, the incident commander on the scene of an emergency only needs to tell the communications center which box card to use and what level of mutual aid should be called.
Cullen is the vice president of the district, and Iola Fire Chief Chuck Fritz is the president.
Last week’s training began shortly after 6 p.m.
Waupaca County Emergency Management Director Andy Carlin and Deputy Director Eric Halverson were also part of the training.
“It draws 20 percent of each department’s resources,” Carlin said of the system.
Each county is a different division within the state system, he said.
“Each municipality had to say it would participate and sign a form,” Carlin said. “That process started last year.”
All 11 fire departments in Waupaca County signed on, he said.
After that occurred, they began developing the pre-planned resource order cards, Halverson said.
He said if there was a large fire at a school on a hot summer day, enough firefighters would be needed on the scene so that some would be on stand by and ready to take over as other firefighters came out of the building and had to go into the designated rehab area.
“This is as huge for dispatch as it is for fire,” Carlin said of the training. “We follow the sheet right down the line.”
Up until the June 26 simulation, they tried to practice an exercise each month.
“The others were table top. This one is full scale,” Carlin said.
As the training took place and fire departments from throughout the county arrived in Weyauwega, Halverson said, “A lot of equipment will be coming in that we don’t need, so we will actually establish a staging area as well.”
That area was set up in front of the bus garage.
“All of Weyauwega (Fire) is tied up,” Halverson said of the exercise. “By bringing in other departments and putting them in the stage area, if there was another call here, those in the staging area would go.”
Between 60 and 85 firefighters from throughout the county – all volunteers – participated.
The training also included an accountability board.
It was Weyauwega Firefighter Dan Nehring’s responsibility to keep track of each firefighter and each appartus as it was deployed, using a white board.
“As they are deployed, he moves them to know exactly where they are on the scene,” Halverson said.
He said all the fire departments in the county are now doing the same thing, so no matter where they go, it will be the same system.
Cullen said they will continue to train monthly, via radio communications, on the last Wednesday of each month, so the fire departments and communications center can stay in practice in case a large event would ever happen within the county.
Those who have questions about the MABAS system, may contact either Fritz or Cullen.
Of the training, Halverson said, “They all know how to put out fires. The biggest thing, when there is this many people, is keeping track of everyone and keeping everyone safe.”