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2021 Year in Review

SHAES Has Record Year in 2020

South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) responded to a record number of calls during 2020 according to the department’s Annual Report. Responses totaled 2,358 compared to 2,171 in 20l9. The previous record had been 2,276 in 2016.

“Our call volume showed a significant increase in medical-related responses,” said executive director Brandon Hinz. “Even with the restrictions and hurdles that had to be endured due to the COVID pandemic, our staff remained committed to providing quality service to our residents and visitors.”

There were 1,730 calls on the medical side compared to 1,470 in 2019. Fire alarms were down from 701 to 628. SHAES has responded to more than 2,000 calls in each of the past eight years.

See 2020 Annual Report –

There were 995 calls in the city of South Haven followed by South Haven township 535, Geneva township 398 and Casco township 337. SHAES provided mutual aid to other fire departments on 93 occasions and received assistance 30 times.

Property losses from fire totaled $422,600, a significant decline from the $1,872,463 reported in 2019. The largest property loss occurred in Geneva township ($251,100) followed by Casco township ($95,000), city of South Haven ($55,700) and South Haven township ($20,800).

Hinz credited the property loss reduction to an active inspection program which made nearly 560 contacts, including 398 short-term rental contacts during the year.

The department was again busy in the area of water-related incidents on Lake Michigan and in the Black River. There were three drownings and 10 water related rescues.

There were no civilian fire-related injuries or deaths in 2020. There were six incidents in which a responder was injured either at an emergency scene or other work-related occurence.

Hinz became executive director (chief) in July upon the retirement of Ron Wise who served the department for 31 years. Keith Bierhalter was promoted to deputy chief and Paul Quinn to captain. Ron Ridley was honored as Firefighter of the Year. The department added eight paid-on-call firefighters.

Limitations caused by COVID didn't hinder SHAES from sponsoring its annual Fire Safety Week albeit virtually and through drive-bys at local schools and senior care facilities. The department participated in a water safety awareness initiative by printing more than 10,000 placemats for restaurants in cooperation with the Bronson Safe Kids Coalition.

Grants from community organizations and businesses made it possible for the department to acquire water rescue kits for the paid-on-call staff and purchase two EMS bikes to be used at local events and in congested areas. Firefighter gear washers and dryers were installed at each SHAES station.

New SHAES Rescue - Made in South Haven

A new heavy duty Rescue truck is being manufactured for SHAES by Spencer Manufacturing of South Haven. Deputy Chief Keith Bierhalter is pictured with the Rescue during its very early stages of construction. The new Rescue will replace the 1998 model Rescue One. Delivery is scheduled for the coming weeks. See more pictures –

Thank You Steve Jones for Your Service

After 34 years of service with SHAES, Steve (Torpedo) Jone's last shifts will be this week. Steve started his career with Covert F.D. in 1981, was hired by South Haven Fire Department in August, 1986 and continued his career with South Haven Area Emergency Services Authority following it's inception in 1996.

Steve has seen many changes, many co-workers, and many advancements. In the mid 80's SH Fire Department averaged 900 calls per year, 2020 SHAES responded to 2358 calls for service. In 1986 SH Fire Department had 2 transporting Limited Advanced ambulances, today we have 4 transporting ALS squads.

Steve has proudly served the South Haven Area community for all this time, NEVER losing his compassion for patients that we encounter. After 34 years he still treats every patient with as much compassion and respect as his first day on the job. Steve was presented the department's Leadership Award in 2017.

Chief Hinz was privileged to work on shift with Steve for 15 years as proud “A-shifters”. “More times than I could ever count he's made us laugh, offered words of advice, and kept me grounded….probably more than he realizes.” said Chief Hinz.

While we are sad to see Steve go, we are happy for this next step in his life. All the members of SHAES wish Steve a happy retirement and are grateful for his service and dedication to this community and organization.

SHAES Responder Promoted to Fulltime

SHAES is proud to announce the promotion of Paid on Call FF/EMT-B Rex Haner to career Assistant Inspector! Rex started his career with SHAES as a P.O.C. FF in 2009, achieving his EMT-B certification in 2011. Along with being an active member of SHAES and serving the community he lives in, Rex also serves our country as an active member in The Army National Guard.

His new job duties with SHAES will consist of assisting the Deputy Chief with inspections, pre-plans, short term rentals and assisting with department training.

Congratulations Rex, we are glad to have you aboard, albeit in a different classification. Our community will be well served with your 12 years of Fire/EMS experience and dedication to SHAES.

SHAES Tribute to Country and Community

See more photos –

Service to Country and Community has been a long time commitment for responders at South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES). A large mural illustrating that commitment appears on a wall of the apparatus room of the department's Station 3. It also now appears on two of the department's vehicles. Its placement was made possible through memorial gifts presented to the department in tribute to deceased members David Henry (1954-2019), Stanley Wakild (1943-2020) and Edward Bierhalter (1928-2019) and Ed's wife, Dorothy (1929-2017). The original mural was created by retired deputy chief Tony Marsala and current deputy chief Keith Bierhalter. It was adapted for placement on the trucks by Anchor Signs of Benton Harbor. Members of the Bierhalter, Henry and Wakild families recently visited Station 3 to see the tributes. The South Haven fire department was founded in 1888 and served the community as SHAES for the past 25 years.

Happy Birthday SHAES!

South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) marks a quarter-of-a-century serving the community on January 1st. To mark the occasion, a handcrafted large-scale replica of the SHAES logo was recently presented to the department for placement in the Blue Star Station.

Retired Chief Randy Van Wynen (pictured left) crafted the wooden logo featuring South Haven's distinctive lighthouse with a lighted lamp room. He is pictured with Chief Brandon Hinz.

Van Wynen was chief during the transition from separate South Haven and Casco fire departments into the area authority that now provides the City of South Haven and townships of Casco, Geneva and South Haven with fire and emergency medical services from three stations. The SHAES was created on January 1, 1996. SHAES is on target to set a record for responses in a calendar year. The record is 2,276 in 2016.

Read Moody of the Market story –

Death of SHAES Firefighter Tom Leva

We sadly report the death of longtime SHAES firefighter Tom Leva after a courageous battle against cancer on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Tom served our community as a part-paid firefighter for 25 years, joining the South Haven Fire Department in 1994 and beginning in 1996 South Haven Area Emergency Services. He retired in December, 2019. In 2014 he was the recipient of the department's leadership award.

Statement from Chief Brandon Hinz: ” Tom was a good person, through and through. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone and he was likely the most intelligent person any of us will ever meet. He loved SHAES and was our biggest supporter, bar none. Tom will be missed greatly but not forgotten. We often celebrate the lives, service and memories of our passed and retired members at the coffee table…he was a large part of that while he was with us, he will certainly be a large part of that after his passing”

Governor Whitmer Thanks SHAES Responders

SHAES staff hosted a special visitor on Friday, Oct. 30, when Governor Gretchen Whitmer stopped at Station 3 with pizza for lunch and to say “thank you” for the work of our responders during the current COVID pandemic. Chief Hinz presented her with two SHAES t-shirts, including one that the department created for Cancer Awareness Month.

Ron Ridley is SHAES Firefighter of the Year

A veteran firefighter with over four decades of service has been named the South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) Firefighter of the Year. Captain Ron Ridley has been selected by his peers for the honor a second time. He was also chosen Firefighter of the Year in 2003.

Ridley started with the former Casco township fire department in 1979. He was chief of that department when Casco became part of SHAES in 1995. He was promoted to captain in 2010.

“Ron's 40-plus year career in the fire service serves as a model for anyone looking to pursue this lifestyle,” said Chief Brandon Hinz when presenting the award at a recent meeting of the SHEAS Authority Board. “I was fortunate to work with Ron on a shift and we are all fortunate to have Ron serving SHAES as such a solid employee, mentor and friend.”

See other recent department recognitions –

SHAES Seeking Summer Beach Safety Interns

South Haven Area Emergency Services is accepting applications for the 2021 summer beach safety internship. Dates of employment will be May 15 thru September 15.

Job requirements: candidate must be interested in enrolling in an emergency services training curriculum (Fire, EMS, or Police), must be at least 18 years of age, have valid driving license with good driving record and must be of good mental and physical health. Applicant must be able to walk up and down multiple stairways and across rough terrain during all types of weather.

Full job description and application is available at Rate of Pay will be $12 per hour with the possibility of $1 per hour bonus at the end of the year. 20-25 hours per week with every other weekend off. For more information and to apply email Chief Brandon Hinz –

South Haven Area Emergency Services is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

SHAES Responder Promoted to Fulltime

SHAES is proud to announce the promotion of Paid on Call Firefighter/Paramedic Amanda Quinn to the career staff effective March 15. Amanda is filling the vacancy created by the recent retirement of Steve Jones. She has been a Paid on Call member since July, 2019. A registered nurse, she is a graduate of the Kirkhof School of Nursing at Grand Valley State University. Amanda brings a wealth of knowledge to table and has consistently proven herself to be a dedicated, hardworking, integral team member of SHAES.

Specialized Drone Enhances SHAES Water Rescue Capabilities

The ability to affect water rescues by South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) responders has been enhanced with the acquisition of a specialized drone.

The purchase was made possible through a generous grant of $7,500 from the Albemarle Foundation. Albermarle Corporation has a plant in South Haven. The Albemarle Foundation is employee-driven and seeks through its grants to make a positive, sustainable impact in the communities where its employees live and work.

Pictured are SHAES Chief Brandon Hinz and Phillip Kenreich, software engineer at Albermarle Corp. of South Haven.

The drone is equipped with a payload delivery system that is capable of dropping CO2-charged, water activated flotation devices to swimmers struggling in the water. Operated from the shore, the operator is able to view through a camera the distressed swimmer.

“We are excited to add this drone to our arsenal of water rescue tools for the upcoming summer months,” said SHAES executive director Brandon Hinz.

Last summer SHAES responded to 23 incidents involving people in distress on Lake Michigan. There were three drownings.

The drone is also equipped with an infrared camera that can be used to locate distressed swimmers in the dark. It is also capable of detecting heat signatures for search and rescue efforts in rural areas such as woods and cornfields.

The Albemarle Foundation has been generous to SHAES. Grants in recent years have been used to purchase water rescue equipment for paid-on-call staff and to acquire bicycles outfitted with EMS supplies for quick response in congested areas.

SHAES Tradition Continues With New Rescue

See Fox17 Coverage – / Moody on the Market reports –

Steeped in tradition, South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) is continuing one that started with the founding of the department a quarter of a century ago.

An attention-getting depiction of a cartoon character appears on the department's new heavy duty rescue truck which was delivered in recent days.

Handsomely displayed is the character Yosemite Sam from the 1940s Looney Tunes cartoons. This tradition started at the time of the creation of the SHAES Authority from what had been the South Haven and Casco fire departments. Randy Van Wynen, the SHAES chief at the time, and colleagues Keith Bierhalter and Tony Marsala selected Yosemite Sam. The department secured permission from Warner Brothers to display him for non-commercial purposes. “It's a great tradition that brings smiles to not only the public, but our responders as they go about the serious business of protecting the community,” said SHAES Chief Brandon Hinz.

Working with Bierhalter and Firefighter Brian Montgomery, Paul Russell from Spencer Manufacturing of South Haven created the characterture on the new Rescue One.

Each Yosemite Sam depicts the purpose of the truck. Tanker trucks show him carrying buckets of water. On the engines he is wielding a hose and axe. Shovel and axe are in his hands on grass rigs. The new Rescue shows Sam holding the Jaws-of-Life extrication tool and a haligan tool.

See more pictures of new Rescue One –

2021 Beach Safety Program Underway

Read MLIVE coverage –

Read Herald Palladium story –

On Saturday, May 15, the staff of South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) started its annual program of flying safety flags at city beaches for the summer months with a new emphasis.

This year, in wake of the increase in water-related emergencies a year ago, SHAES and the City of South Haven, are implementing initiatives to better inform the public before heading to the beach, especially on red flag days.

The city's IT staff has developed a text-messaging system that will send alerts to mobile phones when flags are flying red.

“We want people to realize when the lake is too rough long before they arrive at our beaches,” said SHAES executive director Brandon Hinz. “Unfortunately, the lake in its fury is so inviting that many people upon arrival at the beaches tend to disregard the red flags which are intended to signal they must to stay out of the water. We hope this messaging system will cause folks to decide not to head to the beach.”

“There are so many other recreational opportunities in the South Haven area that folks don't need to feel homebound on red flag days,” said City Manager Kate Hosier.

For example, the city opened a family-oriented splash pad near the South Beach last year. Among the numerous playgrounds in the city is the popular Kids Corner which overlooks Lake Michigan. The South Haven area has also become well known for its hiking and biking trails.

To subscribe to the free Beach Flag messaging system, send a text message with the word “Beaches” to 888777.

“In a return message you will receive the current beach flag postings and given the opportunity to sign up to receive messages whenever flags change to red,” said Hinz.

The city's IT staff has also created a QR code that when scanned brings people to the Beach Flag Status website. The QR code will be displayed at local businesses and short-term rental houses, according to Hinz.

Lake Michigan conditions as determined by the National Weather Service are monitored by SHAES personnel. Beach warning flags are raised at the city's seven public beaches every day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. The flags are changed throughout the day if lake conditions change. The flags are either green, yellow or red based on the conditions.

“Our staff will be monitoring lake conditions more frequently than in the past,” said Hinz. “We encourage the public visiting our beaches to keep an eye on the flags, especially when the lake is wavy.”

A numbering system for the nearby beach flag poles and pier safety boxes has been developed to assist during a time of emergency as a point of reference.

Matt Dey Chosen Firefighter of the Year

Matt Dey has been chosen by his peers as the SHAES Firefighter of the Year. A member of the department’s paid-on-call staff since 2018, Dey exemplifies through his actions the selfless commitment to community by SHAES responders, according to Chief Brandon Hinz.

Three times during the 2020 summer season he was a key responder during water-rescue responses by the department. Read more about this honor and other SHAES recognitions –

See FOX17 Posting –

Coverage by Moody on the Market –

Lifesaving Awards Presented by SHAES

Two emergency responders whose lifesaving efforts were credited with rescuing the driver from a burning vehicle were honored by the South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) on Wednesday night (July 7).

Presented the department's Lifesaving Award were SHAES paid-on-call Firefighter/EMT Paramedic Johanna Quinn and Allegan County Sheriff Deputy Jacob Gage.

The two responded on June 18 to a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of 109th Avenue and 66th Street in Casco Township. One of the drivers was trapped in a vehicle as it caught fire.

Deputy Gage, a sheriff deputy for less than a year, was in the area and the first emergency responder to arrive on the scene. He tried to control the fire with an extinguisher and began the rescue of the trapped driver as the vehicle burned. Quinn, a SHAES responder for seven years, drove to the scene from her home. Together, the two were able to extricate the driver who was taken to a hospital for treatment.

“Quinn and Gage put themselves at risk, overcoming the smoke, heat and inherent danger to remove the patient from the burning vehicle and then rendered first aid until SHAES units arrived,” said SHAES Chief Brandon Hinz.

Community Supports SHAES Water Rescue Initiatives

Pictured: Steve Gage, Chief Lending Officer and President of the Western Market for Sturgis Bank & Trust Company; SHAES Chief Brandon Hinz; Stephanie Timmer, Senior Vice President of the Western Market, for Sturgis Bank & Trust Company.

The generosity of the community is allowing South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) to add to its toolbox of water rescue devices.

A department fundraiser and contributions from the community has allowed the department to purchase an underwater sonar search device for its dive team, according to SHAES executive director Brandon Hinz.

The department's staff recently sponsored a drive-thru pancake breakfast that netted just over $3,000 toward the purchase. The Sturgis Bank and Trust Company and its employees donated $1,000 and the fundraising initiative went over the top with a generous contribution from Don and Carole Hodgman of South Haven.

The Sturgis gift came in a unique way. Each month the bank hosts a “Jean Day”. All of the employees at its branches are encouraged to participate. The branch banks choose a beneficiary. This month the employees at the South Haven branches selected SHAES. The bank matched the employee's contribution.

In addition to acquiring the sonar device, SHAES is able to purchase custom-fit life jackets for its fulltime staff. In the past the responders used jackets that are kept in the apparatus. Now the jackets will be worn by responding on-duty staff in an effort to reduce the time needed to facilitate the start of a rescue. The department is also improving its accountability system at water rescue scenes, according to Hinz.

SHAES earlier this summer expanded its drone capabilities for water-rescue and other emergency scenes. A year ago the department equipped its paid-on-call staff with life jackets and throw-devices to be carried in the responder's personal vehicles. The department also recently increased the size of its dive team staff.

SHAES is supporting a City of South Haven initiative aimed at better communication with the public regarding city beach conditions through a texting system. The public can sign up to receive text messages thru BEACHES at 888777. More than 1,000 people have signed up for this free service.

In cooperation with organizations and businesses such as Bronson-Safe Kids, the South Haven Visitors Bureau and Apple Insurance of South Haven, the department continues to support messaging efforts about water safety.

The Importance of Inspections and Pre-Plans

South Haven Area Emergency Services was dispatched recently to one of our local hotels for an early morning Carbon Monoxide alarm. Upon arrival it was noted there was a concentration of 10PPM CO in the hallway which had increased as personnel made their way further into the building. SHAES members asked hotel employees to initiate the evacuation process and exit the building as fire personnel donned self-contained breathing apparatus, furthering their investigation and continuing evacuation efforts.

FD personnel found the greatest concentration of CO in a mechanical room, 150PPM. It was determined that an exhaust pipe from a natural gas fired hot water heater had detached and was exhausting all combustion by-products into the mechanical room. Adjacent rooms were reading 40-50 PPM CO. Sustained exposure to CO at 150PPM will cause disorientation, unconsciousness and possible death.

All residents and staff were evacuated from the hotel. FD personnel mitigated all hazards, ventilated the entire building, checked all the rooms for residual CO and allowed residents and staff to re-enter the building.

SHAES has added 2 inspector positions over the past 4-5 years to assist the Deputy Chief with fire code inspections, pre-plans and short-term rental inspection responsibilities. For instance, 2021 to date, our inspection program has completed 147 commercial building pre-plans, 86 fire code inspections and 326 short term rental inspections. This program has proven to be very fruitful and imperative for the safety of our residents and visitors. This also helps in familiarizing our SHAES team with the layouts of our many businesses and challenges that may arise if called upon to respond. Pre-plans are uploaded to I-pads which are located in all our first line apparatus arriving to an emergency scene.

This incident is a very good example of the importance of fire code inspections. Smoke alarms, CO alarms, exit signs are all on a long list of items to be inspected in a commercial building. Our inspectors verify that these are present and operating. The hotel referenced above, for instance, was just inspected in early June 2021. If CO alarms were not present or not operating properly this incident could have surely proven fatal.

We commend our inspection team: Dep. Chief Keith Bierhalter, Asst. Inspector Steven Cavadas and Asst. Inspector Rex Haner and our on-duty staff and paid on call members that handled the situation with professionalism and expertise: Capt. Ronald Ridley, FF/Paramedic Dawn Hinz, FF/Paramedic Zachary Kenreich, Lt. Brian Horan and FF Matthew Dey.

V.F.W. Donation Supports Initiative

Thank you V.F.W. Post 667 of South Haven for your generous donation of $3,976.53 which were the proceeds from your recent First Responder Appreciation Dinner. This donation will go towards the purchase of a manikin patient simulator which will provide advanced life saving training skills for our responders. Our recent Drive-thru Pancake Breakfast raised another $4,000. We are now over halfway towards our goal to raise $13,000 for the purchase of this vital training tool.

Drive-thru Pancake Breakfast a Success

The SHAES Drive-thru Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, Sept. 5 was a huge success. We “served” 452 breakfasts. The proceeds, which totaled $4,000, will help SHAES purchase a new EMS advanced training life support manikin.


public/2021_review.txt · Last modified: 2021/12/13 00:52 by tomrenner