I joined the Woodstock Fire Department in 1991. Throughout 26 years of service, I have seen an amazing amount of growth, not only for the city, but for the fire department as well.
During my first year, we responded to about 300 incidents out of one station, with only four personnel on duty daily. We have grown to two stations, with 20 people on duty daily, which includes five staff personnel. In June 2017, we responded to 519 incidents. This has us on pace to be near 6,000 incidents for the year. Included in these incidents were rescues we would not have planned for 26 years ago, and we have changed our preparation and preparedness in many ways.
One huge change for us has been the trail system that runs throughout the city. The Greenprints Trail System has approximately 25 miles of multi-use trails (running, biking, walking) connecting present trails in the city.
The fire department needed to address safety and rescue for the citizens, with more than 300,000 citizens annually on the trail systems in Woodstock and because of the number of trails, including the Rubes Creek Trail, the Woofstock Park trailhead, the Noonday Creek Trail, Dupree Park Trails, the Taylor Randahl Memorial Bike Trails at Olde Rope Mill Park.
When people are deep on the trail and have an accident or an incident (heart attack, heat stroke, etc), rescues become more trying. To aid in rescues, we purchased many pieces of equipment through grants or partnerships with local groups or businesses, including Gas South, Outspoken Bikes and the Woodstock Public Safety Foundation. This includes a four-wheeler and trailer for larger trails and mountain bikes for the smaller trails. The purchase of electric assisted mountain bikes aide in these type of rescues, allowing quicker response times.
We have adjusted our training so that almost half the department is part of our quick-response bike team. The team rides the trails weekly, but you can also see them out and about at city events. The ability to cross-use the equipment has been a bonus.
If you haven’t already checked out the trails, be sure to do so while the weather’s still warm.
By Sgt. George Williams, Woodstock Fire & Rescue Community Outreach Coordinator and Fire Investigator.