Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Van Buren hires first full-time firefighter force

Van Buren Township officials have hired the first-ever full-time fire department in the community.
Members of the board of trustees approved the hiring of six full-time firefighters during the Oct. 1 meeting by a unanimous vote.
“We expect you to save our lives someday,” township Supervisor Kevin McNamara said to the newly-hired firefighters, sworn into office immediately by township Clerk Leon Wright.

 “Today, we are preparing to move the township into its next phase of growth in the area of public safety. The proposal today raises the level of security to our residents in the areas of fire safety and quickens our ability to respond to our residents' medical emergencies,” McNamara said at the meeting.
“Over the last four years our part-time fire fighting and medical response force has dwindled. Due to national unemployment, the country is experiencing a shortage of firefighters entering the fire service trades. It has become increasingly difficult to get firefighters to come to work as part-timers. And when we do get a part-timer, they increasingly are finding full-time jobs in short order with other fire departments. This leaves us with yet another shift that needs to be manned by others.
“This has caused us to become extremely dependent on over-worked part-timers (making time and a half) and has forced a reliance on blended-rate officers,” he said.
McNamara explained that the proposal before the board members was to augment the 100 percent part-time fire department with the six full-time employees. He said the remainder of the fire department staffing would remain the same. He reminded the board trustees that the proposal had been under consideration for a year and had been extensively discussed.  He said that the costs had been reviewed by the township auditing firm, Plante-Moran. Following the unanimous vote, Wright administered the oath to Battalion Chief Ron Folks, Lt. Doug Doty, Sgt. Aaron Ladach, Sgt. Ryan Smith, Firefighter Dan Walter and Firefighter Bronson Campbell. All six were current firefighters who applied for the full-time jobs.
“What an exciting time for the Public Safety Department,” said Public Safety Director Greg Laurain, noting they have had difficulty in recruiting paid-per-call candidates and this will give them better control in staffing the stations.
“I'm speechless,” said Trustee Kevin Martin. “When I was first elected, I wanted to see a full-time fire department. I'm proud to be a part of this.”