OXFD call volume exceeds 2,000

Back in March, OXFD tried to save the Wilson family's barn. Pictured is firefighter Randy Darnell hosing down the barn's remains. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
Back in March, OXFD tried to save the Wilson family’s barn. Pictured is firefighter Randy Darnell hosing down the barn’s remains. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.

2018 was a busy year for the Oxford Fire Department as it had a total of 2,048 calls.

That’s an increase of 111 calls from 2017.

Last year’s medical calls in the township and village totalled 1,670. That’s up from 1,548 medical calls the previous year.

Fire Chief Pete Scholz, who’s been with the department since 1976, noted that some of those are not “a true medical (call),” but they still “fall under the medical category.”

Lift assists are an example of this. These involve firefighters being called to help a person, typically a senior citizen, who has fallen and is uninjured, but cannot get back into their bed, chair or wheelchair without help.

Last year’s fire calls totalled 256.

“Our actual fire numbers were down,” Scholz said.

There were 280 fire calls in 2017.

Eighty-four calls in 2018 were mutual aid requests from neighboring fire departments, including Addison, Brandon, Orion, Auburn Hills, Independence, Metamora, Oakland, Rochester Hills and Springfield.

“We get around,” Scholz said.

Of the department’s 2,048 calls, a total of 38 were incidents in which either Oxford was mistakenly dispatched to a call meant for another agency or it was determined the fire department’s assistance wasn’t needed after being dispatched to a scene.

This is the second time the fire department’s call numbers exceeded 2,000. The last time was in 2014 when the agency had 2,072 calls.

The call volume decreased to 1,850 in 2015, a considerable drop that Scholz attributed to McLaren Oakland’s decision to stop offering 24-7 emergency medical services at its Oxford facility on M-24.

“It was a huge decrease when they did that” because the department was getting a lot of calls to transport patients from Oxford to McLaren’s hospital in Pontiac, the chief explained.

Since 2015, the call volume has been steadily increasing. Scholz said if the number of calls continues to rise, he’ll have to look at hiring more full-time shift personnel within the next few years.

Right now, Oxford has four full-time firefighters/paramedics assigned to each of the department’s three shifts. A shift lasts 24 hours.

Scholz is preliminarily considering adding one full-time staffer to each shift.

He believes this could possibly be funded by asking voters to not only renew the fire department’s property tax, which expires with the December 2020 collection, but restore it to the 3.5 mills that was originally approved in the November 2014 general election.

Millage rate rollbacks mandated by Michigan’s Headlee Amendment reduced the fire tax to its current 3.3759 mills.

One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.

Right now, the fire department’s full-time staff includes 12 shift personnel, a lieutenant EMS coordinator, a lieutenant fire inspector, a recruitment and retention program manager (a position funded primarily by a federal grant), an assistant chief and the chief.

Supplementing the full-time staff are the department’s 31 paid-on-call members.

“Even with paid-on-call (staff), it’s still really tight because we’re running so many calls,” Scholz said. “You send three different ambulances out of the community, that’s six people right there.”