Having one full-time firefighter on medical leave and the deer hunting season made staffing the three stations difficult in November, Miller said. Firefighters were allowed to take 21 total days of vacation time and the firefighters left were not qualified for an interior attack.
“We have had eight or nine firefighters on most nights in November; however, as many of these are new trainees, they are not yet fully ready to work on their own, thus the limited number of nights we have opened three stations to this point,” Miller said.
There were 10 volunteer firefighters recruited in 2012 who are reaching the end of their mentor training. Miller said he hopes to have them qualified by March.
He has also changed the department’s recruiting strategy for Fire Station 3, where volunteers receive housing in exchange for their service. Miller also is considering changing current volunteer requirements that allow those firefighters to stop staffing stations, and only respond from home, after two years of service. Under the new plan, all volunteers would be required to spend three nights per month at one of the city’s fire stations.
Smith said people living in the Tourtellotte Park neighborhood have known for awhile that the Fire Department wasn’t fulfilling its promise to keep the Madison Avenue station staffed. He said during a telephone interview that the fire at Hood’s house gave him an opportunity to let others know about the problem.
It worked. Councilman Jack Considine sent an email to Smith saying the staffing situation was a “legitimate public safety concern.” He also said the council is following the issue closely and he had discussed the matter with Councilman Mark Frost.
“Residents don’t know when the station is staffed or not staffed,” Smith said. “I thought it was about time this information gets out. What we got was a lot of excuses and no action.”