SHAES is pleased to announce the appointment of two new fulltime Firefighter/Paramedics – Shyanne “Shy” Foster and Paul Pant.
Shy comes to SHAES from serving as a Paramedic with AMR Ambulance and a paid-on-call member of the Hamilton Fire Department.
Paul joins SHAES after serving as a Firefighter/Paramedic with the Covert Fire Department and previously as a paid-on-call member of the Sparta Fire Department.
South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) responded to a record number of calls during 2023, according to the department’s Annual Report.
Marking its 27th year, the SHAES Authority serves the city of South Haven and the townships of Casco, Geneva and South Haven. The department is comprised of 17 fulltime staff and 30 paid-on-call firefighters protecting 97 square miles of land and several miles of Lake Michigan shoreline from three stations.
For the tenth consecutive year, the number of calls has increased from the previous year to a record 2,679. The previous record, set in 2022, was 2,659.
“Our call volume continued to show increases in the medical area,” said executive director Brandon Hinz. “SHAES provides a service that is unique when compared to the typical fire department. Many sleepless nights, short meals, missed functions and understanding families are wrapped up in our response numbers.”
There were 1,951 calls on the medical side compared to 1,902 in 2022. Fire alarms decreased from 757 to 727. SHAES has responded to more than 2,000 calls in each of the past eleven years.
There were 1,115 calls in the city of South Haven followed by South Haven township 672, Geneva township 444 and Casco township 376. SHAES provided mutual aid to other fire departments and EMS agencies on 72 occasions.
Fire losses totaled $1,583,650 compared to $846,016 in 2022. Losses by governmental unit were Casco township, $739,700; South Haven township, $563,050; Geneva township, $273,400; and city of South Haven, $7,550.
“The minimal loss from fire ($7,550) within the city of South Haven is noteworthy,” said Hinz. “I’m sure that to a great degree our robust inspection efforts from a dedicated staff, combined with citizen awareness through ongoing education initiatives, can be attributed to that. It’s amazing.”
SHAES continued an active inspection program which made 1,432 contacts, including 810 short-term rental and 83 food vendor fire safety inspections during the year.
There were no civilian fire-related deaths in 2023. There were two incidents in which a responder was injured either at an emergency scene or other work-related occurrence.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets a benchmark goal of 9 minutes, 20 seconds for departments to respond to an incident. This is from the time of dispatch to the arrival on the scene of the incident by the first unit. SHAES during 2023 had an average response time of 5 minutes, 52 seconds. The average response time by unit of government: city of South Haven, 4:05; South Haven township, 5:12; Casco township, 7:05; Geneva township, 7:06.
The department is striving to improve its response times to rural areas by bolstering staffing at the SHAES stations in Geneva and Casco township.
Zach Kenreich was honored as Firefighter of the Year and the department's Leadership Award was presented to Phillip Quinn. The department added two full-time and three paid-on-call firefighters.
Department members presented the fire safety message to more than 1,500 kids at local schools and sponsored a successful public Fire Safety Fun Fair event. The department also participated in the first city-sponsored Touch-a-Truck event. The SHAES Honor Guard participated in impressive flag-raising events on Veterans Day at two elementary schools.
Scott Smith, who retired as mayor of the City of South Haven, was honored for his eight years as a SHAES board member. New city mayor Annie Brown was welcomed to the board.
When the call went out for additional help to staff the fire station during the recent winter-storm weekend, among the first to volunteer was off-duty South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) responder Ron Ridley.
No surprise here.
Ridley has been doing that kind of selfless act for nearly half-a-century.
Later this month the 67-year-old SHAES Captain will conclude a 45-year career of service to the community. It started in his high school days in Casco township.
“The owner of the farm where I worked was a Casco volunteer fireman,” Ron remembers. “When the alarm sounded, I would join him on the fire call. I didn’t have fire gear, but I pulled a lot of hose.”
Ridley became an official member of the Casco department in 1979, rising through the ranks to Chief in the final months before Casco became part of the new South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) Authority at age 40 in 1995.
“At the age that some are looking forward to an early retirement, Ron was just getting started,” observed SHAES Chief Brandon Hinz. “Over the span of 28 years as a dedicated member of SHAES, Ron has not slowed down, has not turned down a call, has not sloughed responsibility; he simply has not stopped or slowed down one bit.”
The former South Haven and Casco fire departments had experienced a contentious historic relationship over the years, but members like Ron worked hard to show that the newly configured SHAES Authority would benefit the citizens of the at-large community. Today the department operates from three stations, including one in Casco, with 40 full-time and paid-on-call members.
Ridley left a 20-year career as a machinist at Getman Manufacturing to join SHAES. He was promoted to Captain 2010. He is a two-time recipient of the department’s Firefighter of the Year award (2002 and 2019).
“Ron has been an inspiration to all of us in many, many ways,” said Hinz. “He is extremely humble, hardworking with a servant attitude, attributes we should all strive to emulate. We don’t want to see him go, he’s more than earned the right to spend some time with family and friends.”
Ron and his wife, Maxine, plan to spend time enjoying their children, Brian and Robin, and five grandchildren. Typical Ron, he says he intends to remain active in the fire service after enjoying some travel.