The Neepawa Volunteer Fire Department has been keeping busy thus far this year. As of last week, the department has responded to 55 calls so far in 2012, right around the typical annual average at this time of the year. But, unlike some years past, the community volunteer fire department has been fortunate enough to not face any complete losses for structural buildings - aside from outbuildings or sheds. That streak almost came to an end in September though, as the firefighters battled a grass fire in fierce winds. Fortunately, the crew responded quickly and effectively to handle the blaze and prevent major loss. “We had to battle upwind when there was 70 km per hour wind,” Neepawa fire chief Scott Gibson explained. “The wind was really causing the fire to spread, but we were able to keep the fire away from the house. We stopped the fire about 50 yards from the home.” Summer grass fires have been keeping the Neepawa department busiest over the summer, with the crew responding to 15-20 of them thus far. “The problem with grass fires is they can last up to a day or two, but most of them are about five or six hours,” Gibson said. “This summer's been better than last for grass fires.” Car accidents are the most common calls for the Neepawa department, with around 50-70 calls typically coming in per year. The busiest time for those accidents is right when the frost hits, Gibson explained. The crew also responds annually to around 25-30 false alarm calls from homes, businesses or buildings. In recent years the department hasn't had to respond to calls in Neepawa regarding hazardous material which can often create the most dangerous situations for firefighters. “They're low occurrence but high risk. The most dangerous by far.” As has become the norm in Neepawa, the crew includes a healthy 25-person team this year. While many of the firefighters are returnees from years past, two newcomers to Neepawa have joined - Rex Toledo and Ronald Santos - as has the department's first female firefighter - at least in recent memory - Amber Unger. “It's great to have a woman join,” Gibson said. “And we're happy to have the two newcomers join our team. They've actually been able to translate for us a couple times and, when there was a fire at the hog plant, they were able to direct us right where to go.” As the department is allowed 25 members, they are currently full but are always looking for motivated people to enter their names as a volunteer for future years. Neepawa's fire department is a regional training centre and well-respected for its team's ability and amount of training time its volunteers have, which accumulates to be hundreds of hours. The team practices twice monthly for three hours, while members go through additional training outside of that. “People should be very happy with the amount of training we have here,” Gibson said. “We're lucky here in Neepawa.” The fire chief, who is now in his seventh year in the position, knows his department is also lucky to have great community support. “I always like to thank the business owners. They're very understanding for letting guys leave work unscheduled to attend emergencies.” Looking to the future, Gibson is hopeful that the town will be able to offer his crew a new base point. Currently, there is little room between vehicles in the garage - adding difficulty to offering speedy emergency response - and church crowds also add driving difficulties on that street during services. “One thing we are looking forward to that would be beneficial for us is a new fire hall and a new location,” Gibson said.