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Mutual aid in fighting fires saves property, increases safety, chiefs say

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Chief Tom Brice at the Perrysburg Township Fire Department touts the use of mutual aid agreements.

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If there's a fire, it doesn't matter where in the Perrysburg area it is, both City of Perrysburg and Perrysburg Township fire departments send a truck and a crew immediately.

Their mutual aid agreement means each responds for all structural fires reported, without the need to call the other for assistance.

"It decreases property loss and increases safety," township Fire Chief Tom Brice said.

The township fire department has automatic mutual aid also with Rossford, Lake Township, and Troy Township. If there is a fire in either Rossford or Perrysburg, the township sends a truck and four fire fighters to assist. If it is in Lake or Troy townships, a tanker firetruck is sent if the fire isn't near a hydrant.

Under the mutual aid agreements, if there's a fire in Perrysburg Township, a truck and crew is sent from Perrysburg and a ladder truck from Rossford. If the fire isn't near a hydrant, then Lake and Troy townships send trucks.

The City of Perrysburg has an automatic mutual aid only with the Perrysburg Township. But city fire stations can call for help from elsewhere, if needed.

Perrysburg Fire Chief Jeff Klein said that, in the 1980s, it was "an embarrassment" to call another station for help. 

"Now, we realize we are costing people more property damage if we don't," he said. "My era and younger are not about pride, but are professional and call for help."

In 2013, Perrysburg Township's fire department provided help 26 times to Perrysburg, 9 times to Rossford, and once to Troy Township. The township received help 21 times from the automatic aid from other departments.

Perrysburg fire department last year reported providing mutual aid 23 times and received automatic aid 21 times from Perrysburg Township and mutual aid from Maumee twice and MIddleton Township once for fires.

"It makes all the difference in the world," Chief Brice said. "It is one of the best things we've ever done."

While a fire truck and crew make a run for mutual aid in Perrysburg or Perrysburg Township, off-duty and volunteers are called in to make sure there is a crew available for another local fire.

No money is paid by one community to another for mutual aid.

Bringing in off-duty crews increases overtime costs and the mutual aid does provide extra wear and tear on the trucks and equipment. But both Perrysburg and Perrysburg Township chiefs said the mutual aid is cost effective because otherwise more firefighters would be needed for each jurisdiction to be able to handle fire calls.

"It is cheaper to pay overtime than more staffing 24/7," Chief Klein said. "With our township agreement, we know we'll get four (firefighters) and another engine to a fire. If we didn't have that, we'd need to staff four more at the station."

Training fire fighters for different rare events also isn't needed. Chief Klein said they don't need high-angle firefighting training because there are few tall structures in Perrysburg. If such a structure caught fire, a call would be made to Toledo Fire which has trained firefighters to provide help on such an incident.

Chief Brice said the automatic aid is vital because when a crew arrives at a fire it doesn't have to decide what to do first. Without the aid, the crew would have to decide to do a search and rescue for victims first or to try to put the fire out first.

"Now we can do that at the same time," Chief Brice said.  

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.

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