- Firefighters in Vilas County put out Monday's house fire on Highway 17 without anyone getting hurt. Many have put out more fires than they can count. But all of them experienced a first Monday. The Eagle River Area fire department used a mutual aid system that is just beginning to grow in Vilas County.
"It allows you to focus on the incident as opposed to the resources that you have," said Eagle River Area Fire Chief Michael Anderson.
On Monday, the Eagle River Area Fire Department used MABAS for the first time ever this year.
"It went really well, I don't think it could have gone better for us," said Anderson.
MABAS stands for Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. The system allows fire departments to pre-plan what firefighters, trucks, and equipment a fire might require - and where they would come from. It is relatively new in Vilas County.
Three of the 12 fire departments in Vilas County have established MABAS for structure fires.
"The dispatchers have been trained in it, I believe in 2014, but it's trying to get the departments on board with…finishing their cards," said Vilas County Sheriff's Office Lt. Dale Soltow.
"It's a hard thing to use when you don't use it everyday," said Anderson.
MABAS is intended for major fire incidents, something that Anderson says doesn't happen too often.
"If we were to only use it for large incidents, we might use it every other year," said Anderson.
That's why earlier this year, the Eagle River Area Fire Department expanded its use to all structure fires.
"Whether or not we need it we still call that box alarm in order to get that practice into our standard operating procedures," said Anderson.
Oneida County fire departments have been using MABAS for several years now.
"There is a learning curve, but once you learn it I believe it drastically simplifies the process of responding to a larger emergency," said Rhinelander Fire Department Lt. Michael Wesle.
The system ensures that no department is left without resources. One department will never be spread too thin to help another.
MABAS doesn't just help fire departments, it makes it easier for dispatchers too.
"So what's easy for them is instead of us calling and saying we need a truck from here and a truck from there we just say we need this box and they open up a booklet and it tells them what to do," said Wesle.
"It just gives them a list of everything to page out so they don't miss anything," said Soltow.
Anderson believes MABAS worked almost perfectly on Monday's fire. He looks forward to more smooth success in the future.
"It allows that incident commander to go forward knowing that he has every resource he needs at hand, and it frees up that part of his decision making process to where he can go ahead and focus on what needs to happen on the ground," said Anderson.
The nine other fire departments in Vilas County that do not use the system yet are working towards utilizing MABAS.