Warrenton Fire had busiest year on record in 2019


Warrenton firefighters work to extinguish a greenhouse fire in March 2019. Last year was the busiest on record for the fire district. File photo
By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

Warrenton firefighters had their busiest year on record in 2019, responding to 1,221 incident calls, according to Chief Anthony Hayeslip.

“Every year, (call volume) is going up in small increments,” Hayeslip told The Record. 

Hayeslip said the fire district responded to about 90 more emergency calls in 2019 compared to the year before, with 1,131 incidents in 2018. The district responded to 1,122 incidents in 2017.

Data on emergency calls can fluctuate each year for several reasons, Hayeslip said. One bad week of snow or a severe storm can cause a spike in responses, for example.

But the chief believes the trend of increasing calls each year is more likely a growing pain for the Warrenton area.

“Every year we continue to grow in population. If you look at census data, it’s steadily going up, and it’s going to continue to increase,” Hayeslip commented. “As we grow, (call volume) is just going to continue to increase.”

One of the reasons the fire district has run significantly more calls over the last three years, compared to the years before, was a 2017 decision to begin responding to life-threatening medical calls.

But according to incident data from the fire district, medical calls don’t account for almost 9 percent increase in incident response between 2017 and 2019. Medical calls actually decreased slightly over those three years, according to the data.

And before the fire district began running medical calls, between 2008 and 2016, the number of incidents responded to by Warrenton Fire went up by about 150 calls per year, Hayeslip said.

The slow progression into higher incident response numbers won’t necessarily continue each year. But Hayeslip said for a district with one primary crew responding to fires, crashes and medical emergencies across 125 square miles, more calls means more wear on fire trucks and firefighters.

The higher call volume also highlights an ongoing challenge for the district: Providing adequate staffing on a tight budget, with limited volunteer support.

“From time to time, we have (another) truck staffed with volunteers. But that fluctuates,” Hayeslip said. “Right now, they’ve all got good jobs and don’t have time.”

If the number of calls continues rising in future years, Hayeslip is concerned the district’s current staffing won’t be able to keep up. He’s hoping local residents will become more willing to approve a tax increase for the district as need increases, although several tax proposals have failed in recent years.

Warrenton Fire Captain Matt Dabbs said area residents should look to the east to learn from successes and mistakes in growing areas of St. Charles County.

“It’s inevitable, this town’s growing. We’re on two major thoroughfares on I-70 and Highway 47,” Dabbs commented. “We have a road map to the east of us. All these departments and agencies to the east of us, they were at one time where we’re at now.

“We need to be able to plan for the future, and we need to look at them as examples of the mistakes they made, some of the shortfalls they had. We’re going to have the same growing pains.”

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