Orange Beach now manning Ono station part time

Posted 7/30/13

ONO ISLAND, Ala. — As the five-day-a-week firefighter on Ono Island, part of Brian Cranford’s job doesn’t normally involve evictions.

But in the month Orange Beach has manned Station 4 on Ono, Cranford had one call that required an …

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Orange Beach now manning Ono station part time


ONO ISLAND, Ala. — As the five-day-a-week firefighter on Ono Island, part of Brian Cranford’s job doesn’t normally involve evictions.

But in the month Orange Beach has manned Station 4 on Ono, Cranford had one call that required an eviction.

“The duck didn’t want to leave,” Cranford said with a laugh.

One June 24 Cranford started his new job of working 8 a.m.-4 p.m. in the station just off River Road near the water tank on the eastern end of the 5.8-mile long island. He spends his days in the station house built in 1981 with a 2008 pickup equipped for all kinds of emergency calls and a 1996 Pierce fire truck, also fully equipped.

Recently he’s been quite busy, handling nine calls in seven days at one stretch and at least one involving the duck. Resident Brantley Perloff said the duck took up residence on her deck and didn’t want to leave.

“We tried everything to lead it away,” she said. “We led it to the dock, to the beach. But it kept coming back.”

Eventually Administrative Fire Chief Wade Stevens, a certified wildlife handler, and Cranford trapped the duck which Stevens later carried to a lake and released.

The reason for manning the station is twofold, Stevens said. First and foremost is cutting response time.

“Since being a manned station we had an unconscious patient down on River Road two weeks ago,” Cranford said. “From the time of the first dispatch and the time I got on scene with the patient it was two and a half minutes. When it was just a volunteer station, unconscious patient, same proximity, 10 minutes.”

That’s something Perloff likes as well.

“That’s huge if you ever have a problem,” she said. “And we’re not just talking fires. We’re talking about any kind of paramedic problem. If you’re having a problem it’s very nice to know you can get a response fairly quickly.”

Manning the station is also the first step toward using the station as a training ground that will eventually help get round-the-clock coverage on the island, Stevens said.

“What we’ve proposed and what we are going to is what we call a resident or student firefighter program,” Stevens said. “That’s where you offer residency within the fire station or in some cases tuition reimbursements to young folks who are interested in getting in the fire service in exchange for working a shift as a fully trained firefighter.

“You provide them the training and you get an exchange for those type of perks and they work shifts to cover and repay those perks you are providing them.”

When Cranford, a veteran firefighter from North Carolina, showed up to live in a house his in-laws built in the 1970s on Ono Island, Stevens saw a perfect opportunity for expanding coverage on Ono and increasing the staff there through training.

“We’ve looked into that program and as kind of a beginning of it we wanted someone who could oversee that as we move forward with it,” Stevens said. “Brian is a resident of the island, he came along and had good qualifications. He got all tested and certified here in Alabama. Once we did that he was a good fit to put in with thoughts of those future possibilities.”

Ono Island is not in the city of Orange Beach, but residents pay a yearly fee to city for fire and rescue services. Manning the station, Stevens said, will give residents the chance for more interaction with the department.

“We’re putting him out there to increase the overall activity on the island as far as the relationships with the community and folks being able to stop by to get blood pressure checks, glucose checks and decrease response times throughout the island,” he said. “It’s a good overall move for us from a public safety standpoint and community relations.”

And it’s a good way to supplement a dwindling number of volunteers. Cranford said there are currently nine volunteers, but only six that are active. When calls come in, Cranford says two to six volunteers typically respond.

“We’re trying to slowly but surely increase the level of service we can offer to those folks out there for what they pay out there,” Stevens said. “We struggle more and more to find volunteers to maintain a solid base of volunteers.”

Part of that increase in service, Cranford said, will hopefully be more manned hours for the Ono station.

“We’re hoping to go 24 hours around the clock, it’s just a matter of budget,” Cranford said. “We need to find the money to support it. The need is here. Last year we ran 44 calls total on the island. We’ve had nine in seven days so we’re on target to really exceed that this year.”

Of those 44 calls in 2012 seven were fire alarms and none of them actually turned out to be anything, just false alarms, or burnt food on the stove and smoke alarms going off, Cranford said.

But when the calls do come in, Cranford has everything he needs to assess and handle the situation until shift firefighters arrive from Orange Beach.

“I’m fully equipped to handle anything the island can throw at me including hazmat calls, all that sort of things,” he said. “Nine times out of 10 when (shift firefighters) have been called out here I’ve canceled them. Either right when they get on the scene or before they’ve gotten on scene.”

When he’s off work, he becomes a volunteer so in the unmanned hours he’s on call as well.

“If I’m on the island or close by and we get a call, I go on the run,” he said. “I technically volunteer my time after 4 p.m., but the city they will pay me for my time if I go on a call. They just couldn’t be better.”