The Morton Fire Department responded to 11 percent more calls last year than it did in 2011.
Go back to 2009, and the increase is 17 percent over four years.
What’s behind the surge? Calls for medical assistance from the department’s Emergency Medical Services unit.
Those calls rose 13 percent from 2011 to 2012 and they’re up 16 percent from 2009.
“It isn’t time to panic, but the number of EMS calls keeps growing,” said Fire Chief Joe Kelley, who compiled the call report for the Village Board.
Medical assistance makes up the vast majority of the department’s call-out work.
Of the department’s 2,473 total calls last year, 2,181 were for medical assistance.
Of the 2,225 total calls in 2011, 1,936 were for medical assistance.
For 2010, there were 2,158 total calls, with 1,898 for medical assistance.
There were 2,114 total calls in 2009, with 1,883 for medical help.
Kelley said he’s been trying to find answers as to why Morton has more medical assistance calls than other area communities with a similar population and why the number of calls keeps increasing.
“You can point to our aging population and our three nursing homes, but I think a bigger factor is our large daytime population,” he said. “Look at the additional traffic in town during the day.”
There’s a Walmart Supercenter, Caterpillar Inc. distribution center, Libby’s pumpkin cannery and other industrial facilities and several medical offices in Morton.
Twelve full-time paramedics staff two Morton ambulances 24 hours a day.
The service began in 2008 when the number of full-time paramedics rose from six to 12 and a second ambulance was put into use because of an increased work load.
Morton also has 35 volunteer firefighters.
A timetable has been put in place for the village to build a long-planned satellite fire station on land on Queenwood Road purchased several years ago.
The Village Board recently approved a real estate swap with property owner Sam Parrott that gave Parrott the aging, outdated satellite station on Adams Road near downtown.
The village will lease the station from Parrott for a maximum of five years while it pursues financing and construction of the Queenwood station on the south end of the village.
Kelley said location is the driving force behind the need for the Queenwood station. The department’s headquarters on Courtland Street is in the north end of the community.
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“We have a high call volume in the Queenwood area with three nursing homes, three schools, and senior apartment complexes nearby,” he said.
Kelley said the Queenwood station will house three fire trucks and one ambulance, just like the Adams station.