Questions in a response to our department’s Facebook post about our hangar fire were well articulated and I would like to address those questions. The following is the inquiry:
“Wondering if we did have 2 more paid personnel would have that made a difference to the outcome of this situation or any large-scale fire as I thought there needed to be 2 in and 2 out for safety. Would we have 4 paid staff at all times? 2 staff would be able to establish command, but beyond that they would still be waiting 15 minutes for volunteers to arrive or the mutual aid from Valley. For medical emergencies having paid EMT’s on staff 24 hours a day could save a life, but not sure they could do a lot in a large-scale fire. I agree we need more volunteers at all hours of the day, but not sure more paid staff would help this type of incident unless we could have a minimum of 4 staff on at all hours of the day which I don’t think that would be in the budget.”
The last statement is accurate; our budget will not support staffing of 3-4 firefighters 24/7. But we could get a tremendous benefit with 4 firefighters staffing our department during the day.
The law referred to above states that a fire department must have 2 firefighters outside before they can send 2 inside to fight fire, unless there is a rescue situation, which requires only one firefighter outside while two go in for rescue. This being the case, our goal is to have the following staffing plan: in addition to the existing part-time fire chief and part-time deputy chief, we would add two full time fire fighters, and two Shift Volunteers working the day shift during the week. 60% of our emergency calls are during the weekday, 6:00am to 6:00pm.
At the time of this fire, we had nobody on shift due to lack of Shift Volunteers, the Fire Chief was on vacation and the Deputy Chief was not scheduled for shift till 10, (she responded to the call from home).
With the new staffing plan, if there was a day where we had only 3 firefighters available due to vacation or sick leave, we could, at the minimum, go into rescue mode on
a structure fire. Should we be fortunate to have 6 firefighters on duty, this maximum staffing would give us the ability to send 4 in and still have 2 outside. Staffing of 6 would be the safest and most effective operation for our fire fighters. Structural firefighting is our most dangerous operation, and it is manpower demanding.
One could ask how adding two full paid fire fighters during the day would have any positive effect on an incident at night and the answer is there would be no effect. We are working on other options for the night and weekend shift coverage which I can enumerate in a following blog.
As far as having paid staff is concerned, we have other challenges now facing our department that need to be addressed which only a paid staff could adequately handle. Adding two full-time firefighters is not just about the fire response. The adequate staffing at a fire for safe and effective operations is the most important issue but not the only challenge facing NLFR. I will address those challenges in another blog also.