When a major disaster like the Chemtool fire in Rockton happens in the region, cooperation is key to getting and keeping things under control.
Fire and other emergency departments call that mutual aid, and there’s a statewide system in place to ensure everyone gets the help they need – the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, or MABAS.
As part of MABAS, Byron, Oregon, Mt. Morris, Polo, Stillman Valley, and Forreston departments in Ogle County all responded in one way or another, to neighboring Winnebago County.
So did other departments in the region. Some still are helping out.
In fact, more than 80 fire departments responded to the Chemtool fire, Rockton fire Chief Kirk Wilson said at a news conference this morning.
Ogle County fire department personnel who responded Monday spent the day in Rockton and were back in their stations Monday night, Mt. Morris Fire Chief Rob Hough IV said.
An Ogle County ambulance was sent back to the scene Tuesday night just in case it was needed.
In Whiteside County, Rock Falls, Morrison, Prophetstown and Tampico sent four water tenders, a command vehicle and firefighters, while Sterling sent a chief. They were there to work from midnight to 8 Tuesday morning, to help spell those who worked the fire during the day.
“They bring in assets from other areas so the local assets are not overtaxed and they can regenerate,” Hough said.
Sharing equipment, like ambulances, water tenders and ladder trucks, also is part of the MABAS pact, but “when you get to an incident of this magnitude, a lot of specialized equipment comes in from outside contractors,” Hough said.
When a massive fire, or one that’s out of the ordinary, like this one breaks out, local and regional stations respond by sending some personnel and apparatus, while others remain at the home station to handle the regular calls, like fires and heart attacks.
“That’s the way the mutual aid system works. We’re each sending a little bit, so we can handle our everyday calls,” Hough said.
“That’s the beauty of the system.”