[PODCAST] Report to Wyoming: Casper Fire-EMS Talks Past, Present, Future
In a recent Report to Wyoming podcast, K2Radio News sat down with Casper Fire-EMS Department engineer and Public Information Officer Dane Andersen to talk about the past, present and future predictions for the year ahead.
Over the past four months, Andersen has taken on a big project while recovering from an injury incurred on the job. You may have noticed the Casper Fire-EMS' Throwback Thursday posts on Facebook.
After consulting with chief officers, Andersen decided to take a good, hard look at where the department has come from. He's been going through archives and preserving them digitally while also sharing the history on social media.
"What's been fun for me is finding out where these photographs came from," same Andersen.
Photo journalists have been taking pictures of firefighters in action for a long time.
"Significant talent, for sure, was needed to take those photographs."
Andersen says a lot of them were taken by Craig Morrison, a photo journalist at the Star Tribune.
One of the oldest photos he's discovered was from 1892--a group of strong bodied men with hand pushed carts carrying rolls of hose on them.
Records indicate that the Casper Fire Department was established in 1895 as a formal charter. In the 1920s, Casper became recognized as a first class city, and in need of a municipality beyond something akin to a gentleman's club.
Andersen said he read a little bit about that meeting in The History of Natrona County.
His goal has been preserving the tangible photos they have digitally and in the highest quality possible.
"The subject certainly is fascinating. And where it's relevant for us today sitting here in January 2023 is... being mindful of where our fire department has come from, and how our level of service has evolved all the way to today... and it's a fascinating look at where we've been over the past 128 years."
We talk about taking photos of fires today and the balance of being respectful and sensitive, but also letting the public know what's going on in their neighborhoods.
Andersen hopes that if someone in 2063 looks back on a digital record to find out what was going on in 2023 there's something there.
"I'm not sure there is a perfect balance," says Andersen, but their policy as a department is to avoid specifying specific addresses of residences.
"We are a municipal service funded by taxpayer dollars, so taxpayers have a right to know what we are doing" says Andersen.
"I think particularly in Casper we are blessed that Casperites understand when firefighters or public services go to some place, typically someone is not having the best day, and what impresses me when we issue releases detailing a tragedy or a fire or something that happens in our community, usually the first question is, How can I help?"
Case-in-point: on the Breck fire a few weeks ago, one of the dog's in the residence turned up missing. Firefighters leave doors open so they can drag hoses inside, there's really no way around it.
Luckily, the dog was found under a vehicle across the street and reunited with her family.
Looking to the future, Andersen says "We know for sure we're going to be here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our calls for service tend to increase over the years around the 5% mark, so that means we may break through the 9,000 calls" (reaching the 9,500 mark).
There will be a continual re-evaluation of the department's emergency response: Do they meet the expectation of citizens?
It's going to be paramount and at the forefront of everything they do--spiderwebbing down to building inspections, figuring out if/why fires are increasing, response times, staffing, apparatus and more.
Right now staffing is at its minimum. There are, on average, eighteen firefighters per day spread across five stations.
The department currently averages twenty-four calls a day.
Andersen said there are currently members who are eligible to retire. "They have earned the opportunity to retire and have a long, fulfilled retirement, so how do we backfill or increase our workforce?"
"It's going to be a big year. That I can confirm. It's going to be a big year for us."