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More in News
Chief reports on paid fire fighters
PARIS — Fire Chief Brad Frost has reported to town leaders that the town's first foray into paid per-diem firefighters is a success, with reduced response times and increased numbers of respondents during fire emergencies.
Selectman Ted Kurtz, who has been opposed to the idea of funding the measure with reserve accounts, said that he would like to see a more definitive assessment of response times.
The report covers the first 100 days of the per-diem program. Over that time, the department has responded to 71 emergency calls.
Of those calls, 59 were received between 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., resulting in out-the-door times of under three minutes. In 93 percent of the calls, the fire fighters were out the door within two minutes.
"Sure we've got some calls down to one minute, two minutes, three minutes," said Kurtz. "There's nothing in here about how many minutes we've saved on the calls. So there's really nothing in this report about what it is we, in fact, have gotten for the $100,000 or so we've spent on this project."
The program was created to address daytime shortages in volunteer fire fighter staff.
Last summer, the proposal was overwhelmingly approved by voters at a town meeting, at a cost of $90,995.
After much discussion, voters approved funding the measure by taking $50,000 from a fire department reserve fund, and raising the remaining $40,995 through taxation. That money will cover the cost of the firefighter staffing for a 10-month period ending June 30, 2011.
After a brush fire that generated inaqequate response from the Paris Fire Department, the program was implemented two weeks earlier than originally intended.
During working hours, most of the volunteer staff is unable to respond to calls. As a result, Frost reported that there were incidents during which inadequate numbers of firefighters were present at emergency scenes, particularly in the critical early minutes after initial arrival.
"With the 59 calls received while we had per-diems on duty, the crew was no smaller than 3 fire fighters," reported Frost. "This has also removed a lot of stress that had been placed on myself and Deputy Chief Buffington during the daytime, by knowing that we will be able to respond in a timely manner with an engine and competent crew."
When the per-diem fire fighters were not on duty, the response time was between 10 and 14 minutes, according to Frost. While the report identified how long it took per-diem fire fighters to get out the door, it did not include the response times of those calls.
"There's nothing in here that says we averaged so many minutes before, and then we're averaging so many minutes now," said Kurtz.
"Personally I think it covers all of the issues or questions that I had," said Selectman Lloyd Herrick."I think they were very specific on time parameters and response time and all that."
The report detailed the sorts of tasks the per-diem staff performs while at the station, including a 34-point weekly check on each of four engines, minor maintenance on things such as spark plugs and light bulbs, painting and cleaning of the station, training for specific responses to problematic local buildings, and assisting in fire education classes in the community.
"We have had multiple opportunities to do meaningful trainings with our newer firefighters ... ," reported Frost. "This is a huge benefit to the long term survival of any fire department in making its members more efficient in working together while performing under the stress of any emergency situation."
Frost also reported that the program has saved $1,560 in janitorial and fire prevention labor costs, as that work is now being done by the per diems.
In addition, said Frost, "preventive maintenance is being conducted weekly on all vehicles and deficiencies fixed in-house when within our capabilities."
Frost noted that the department pays $95 per hour for out of house work. "I am sure that we have realized some savings from not having to be contracted out," said Frost.
Kurtz said that the cost savings of $1,560 was not very large as compared to the overall cost of the program.
"Saving dollars was a secondary issue of this per-diem program," said Herrick. "My priority, as far as I was concerned, was response time, and the financial part I knew from the get-go was going to be an expensive endeavor to the town."
"I think there's a tradeoff here that didn't get enough scrutiny from the town," said Kurtz.
Kurtz and Herrick agreed that a comparison of response times would be helpful.
"Then we'd know what we're getting for 100 grand," said Kurtz.
"There's more than one way to look at this trade-off," said Kurtz. "... this report doesn't really shed any light on what is the heart or core issue of this whole project."
At any given time, there are three firefighters in the station who are being paid $11 per hour; the schedule is structured in such a way that no individual is employed full time.