By Xiomara Levsen
During the West Liberty City Council meeting Tuesday, March 7, the West Liberty Fire Chief was sworn in and the annual report from the West Liberty Fire/EMS Department was reviewed.
The members of the fire department voted Kirt Sickels as fire chief, West Liberty Mayor Ethan Anderson said. However, the city council would have to approve Sickels in that position.
“It’s important to bear in mind that this council didn’t set up this process at all,” Anderson said. “It was set up many, many years ago by those who decided how all of this was going to go. This fire department didn’t set up the process.”
Anderson read city code section 414A to everyone. The city code said the city council is responsible for electing the fire chief as recommended by the members of the fire department.
“So you as a city council have been appointed long ago as overseers of the fire department as you all know,” Anderson said. “I know there’s been obviously a lot of discussion about this the last couple of years and maybe some misunderstanding.”
Many things have been said and the city has been working on undoing some of those things, making progress and brining everyone together, he added.
By law the city council has oversight of the fire department by law, Anderson said. He told city council it was important for them to note the citizens in West Liberty elected them.
Anderson asked for a motion to accept Sickels as the fire chief. City councilmember Ashley Smith made the motion. City Councilmember Dana Dominguez seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.
After the motion was approved, Anderson swore Sickels in as West Liberty Fire Chief.
Sickels started the presentation of the department’s annual report with the announcement of the new officers for 2023. Tom Christensen will be the assistant chief. Tammy Wigim is the medical officer. Brian Flake will be the Fire Captain. Mindy Sickels – Sterbenz will be the secretary/treasurer and trustees are Dillon and Eric Christensen and Carlos Jacques.
The EMS vehicles mileage was included in the report given to the city. The 2011 Alexis Ambulance has 98,714 miles and the 2018 F450 Life-Line Ambulance has 58,957 miles.
Sickels thanked the city and the city council for giving the department money $100,000 from the American Plan Rescue Act funds (ARPA) toward the purchase of a new ambulance. The fire department has looked at one model and has another model they’ll view soon.
Ambulance builds are two years out so the new ambulance wouldn’t be in service until the summer of 2026 if they ordered it now, Sickels added.
“And that’s for a brand new one?” Anderson asked Sickels.
“That’s for a brand new one,” Sickels replied.
The EMS department has part-time paramedic’s and Emergency Medical Technician’s (EMTs) covering calls during normal hours, according to the report. The goal is to have 11 EMTs/paramedics on staff to cover calls 24 hours a day or when someone goes on vacation.
The EMS department responded to 646 calls in 2022. This was an increase from 588 calls the year before.
For fire calls, the fire department responded to 123 calls in the, Sickels said. This was down from the year before. There were 41 calls in the city and 47 in the rural areas, seven of those were structure fire calls, which were also down by two.
The fire department responded to 35 car accidents, 21 rescue calls on I-80, responded to 15 fire alarms and 12 grass fires.
“For grass fires, I have to say for 20 plus years I’ve been on the fire department we had the biggest grass fire,” Sickels said.
There were 800 acres destroyed, farming equipment destroyed and were called out an additional six times because of the grass fire restarting, he added. He estimated $1,000,000 in damage was caused from this fire alone.
Sickels said the department was starting a new educational program for its members to help them earn continuing education units (CEUs). The department is also looking into starting the youth firefighter program with West Liberty High School.
A full list of the members of the fire department and EMS department was given to the city in the report Sickels submitted. Most of the members work another job so if there is a call the department needs to respond to the amount of members available to respond is limited. He would like to add more members to the department to help with call response.