Litchfield City Hall

The city of Litchfield will pay $245,187 for fire and rescue squad protection in 2021, according to agreements approved by the City Council last week.

The costs are built around operating costs incurred by the Litchfield Fire Department and Litchfield Rescue Squad in 2020, in addition to equipment and vehicle maintenance costs, and an annual payment for construction of the fire and rescue hall.

The city’s $245,187 payment is half of the cost incurred by fire and rescue, with the six townships surround Litchfield that also receive service — Forest City, Greenleaf, Litchfield, Darwin, Ellsworth and Harvey — combining to make an equal $245,187 payment.

Prior to approval of the contracts, Litchfield Rescue Squad Chief Blake Tangen and Fire Chief Greg Gilbertson gave their respective organization’s annual reports.

The Rescue Squad has a full complement of 30 members for the first time in years, according to Tangen, the result of the squad hiring 11 new members in the past two years.

That squad responded to 509 calls in 2020, with 408 of the calls in the city of Litchfield. The majority of the calls (372) were medical responses, with the second most common type of all being falls, which accounted for 80 total calls, 70 in the city of Litchfield. The squad also responded to 35 car crashes.

Those calls demanded 4,399 hours of squad time through the year. In addition, Rescue Squad members attend monthly meetings and drills, in addition to six extra drills. Those activities called for another 2,124 hours of squad time.

Litchfield Fire Department responded to 135 calls in 2020. The department’s coverage area is about 220 square miles, according to Gilbertson. In addition to that regular service area, the department has mutual aid agreements with Cosmos, Dassel, Eden Valley, Grove City, Kimball, Watkins, Hutchinson, Paynesville and Willmar departments.

Of the department’s 135 calls in 2020, 75 were in Litchfield, with another 17 in Litchfield Township.

The city saw 37 structure fires in 2020, slightly higher than the 25 to 30 the department normally responds to annually, Gilbertson said. He said the increase was simply something that happens occasionally, and not due to any specific cause.

Gilbertson touted the dedication of his team, pointing to the fact that an average of 20 firefighters responded to every call in 2020, and saying that turnout is “unheard of almost anywhere in the state.”