Lincoln County Fire Departments Looking To Join Mutual Aid Program

Three fires occurring within three hours in Merrill on Saturday have given the Merrill Fire Department a good case to implement a mutual aid program called MABAS.

Merrill's Fire Chief, Dave Savone said in his 35 years in both big and small departments, he has never seen three structure fires in one day. He said although it was handled well, having mutual aid tactics preplanned could have helped not only this particular situation, but future major incidents as well. That's essentially what the state organization, MABAS, or Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, does. It's meant to be used for deploying fire, rescue, and emergency medical services personnel in an event where multiple jurisdictions and agencies are needed.

Departments in each MABAS County or District pre-plan what departments will give what kind of aid and resources in a given scenario and put the plans on a Box Alarm Card. It's the template which chiefs can refer to when making mutual aid decisions.

"The great thing is when you have a day like last Saturday, you don't have to put much thought into it. You just look at the box alarm card and it tells you, this is who's coming and that's who we need and stuff of that nature," said Savone. "It's a great avenue. It's a good future to show that this is really necessary up here in Lincoln County and the City of Merrill Fire Dept."

He said MABAS would help standardize aid, decrease aid response time, and resources will get shared. However, no department will provide more than 20 percent of its resources to aid to allow adequate defense for their own incidences in an 80/20 rule. Aid costs will also be reimbursed by the state rather than placed on the city requiring aid.

The Tomahawk, Corning and Merrill departments have all signed on to join the 62 other MABAS districts in Wisconsin. Russel plans to join after its meeting next month. At least four departments need to sign on for a county to be considered for the program, but Lincoln County will need a fifth, that being Pine River, to agree to it as well to become a part of the program. The chief said they should be able to get the program fully functioning in about two to three years after it's started if it is implemented.

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