May 24, 2020
By: Dwayne Page
It’s been almost a year since the county authorized funding for a shared part time paid firefighter position for the DeKalb County Fire Department and the result has been positive according to Chief Donny Green.
Under the program, the county provides funding for one part time firefighter position shared by four different persons, trained and certified, who rotate in and out of the positions as needed. None work more than 24 hours per week and the pay is $10 per hour.
Since its beginnings in 1975 until this past year, the DeKalb County Fire Department had been completely staffed with volunteers but times have changed and in recent years fewer people have stepped up to volunteer.
During Wednesday night’s meeting of the county budget committee, Chief Green asked that pay for the position be increased from $10 to $12 per hour starting with the 2020-21 fiscal year.
“I feel I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t come and ask for a little bit more money for those guys. I am asking that they get $12 per hour which in my opinion is still way under their value for their level of training. These guys are certified firefighters and vehicle extrication technicians. I feel like with the success we have had with the program this year and the value it has added we can certainly justify doing that,” said Chief Green.
“If we go from $10 to $12 per hour it will be about a $4,000 increase in that budget line item. I am not asking at this time to increase their hours. In a normal year I would probably be asking for two additional shared part time paid firefighters because I think I can fully justify that but I know this is not a normal year and a lot of sacrifices will have to be made this year. We have done activity sheets every day. I have had somebody out there and its documented what they have done every day. They do truck maintenance and its not just for the main station. If we don’t have anything for them to do there I send them to one of the other stations. They wash trucks, clean fire halls, do regular maintenance, and more. It has been a huge benefit and worked very well. It has been a phenomenal thing and a huge relief to me to know I have somebody. Just the upkeep of our equipment has been tremendous. If you visit any one of these stations right now you will see that the trucks are clean and the turnout gear is getting washed and maintained. Its things we wouldn’t normally get to do and that saves the county money in the long run when we take care of our equipment,” said Chief.
The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department is also in the process of adding restroom toilets at three fire stations where there have been none and would like to do the same at three others in the coming year funded from the capital projects budget.
“We have been able to go with something a little more economical. They make a toilet that has a pump on it without having to install a septic system. It has an outside tank which can be pumped once a year. We have gone with this system. It’s cheaper and it saves us a lot of space. In addition to that we have installed a shower at the main station in the restroom. We have the part time guys out there now and if they go on a fire call they need to be able to take a shower there. We are getting a lot of new recruits and some are females. We just added 10 new firefighters Sunday and four of them are females so we will have to be a little more accommodating with restroom facilities,” said Chief Green.
In his budget requests, EMS Director Hoyte Hale asked for funding to purchase new portable radios.
“We need at least ten portables. We have five units and need two portables per truck. We could get ten portables for $5,500,” said Hale.
Efforts are being made to secure a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant to purchase a Power-LOAD cot system for four of the ambulances.
“We have applied for an AFG grant for $145,000 with a 5% match for a new loading system from the Stryker company. What that would allow us to do is when we pull up on a call and get out, the cot would automatically come out and lower down and when we get the patient, place him on the cot and begin to load him on the ambulance the system would lift the cot with the patient and place it into the ambulance without the staff having to do any heavy lifting preventing any possible back injuries. That system is $35,000 but if the grant is approved it would equip four of our ambulances,” said Hale.
The county also plans to purchase a new ambulance for the EMS operation in 2020.