JACKSON, Mich. — The Jackson Fire Department has been awarded $1.4 million dollars to hire in additional staff members.
“That will add seven members to our departments roster, two on each of two shifts and three on a third shift," Deputy Fire Chief David Wooden said. "That will bring our staffing from 7 to 9, or ten on shift and it will allow us to put a second truck in service."
Wooden says they run their tower truck a lot more than they should.
“It’s an awful expensive piece of equipment and heavy equipment to run on medical calls," he said. "One of the big purposes is to get to run an engine instead of the tower in that given district."
This is the third SAFER grant the Jackson Fire Department has received. Wooden hopes this time around they will be able to retain the people they bring on after the grant ends but says it is not a guarantee.
“This will bring us back up to the same staffing levels we had before. It is a sufficient number of staffing for our department in consideration with the fact that we have an automatic mutual aid agreement with both Blackman Township and Summit Township,” Wooden said.
Currently there are 24 sworn-in members of the department. This will bring their staff up to 31. More staff makes things safer for everyone in the fire department, Wooden said.
Lieutenant Ryan Hendricks agrees.
“It’s always good to put more staffing on the floor. It lightens the load for all of us on our day-to-day operations from our station duty to our call volumes. Just having that extra staffing put more rigs on the road possibly and helps us out tremendously in that aspect,” Hendricks said.
Call volume has gone up steadily over the past 30 years, according to Wooden.
“When I started in 1985 we were running about 3,900 calls a year,” Wooden said. “We’re on pace to run 5,300 this year. We’re doing it with two trucks now instead of four trucks and more staffing than we did before. So, this is one of my biggest concerns is that not only are we affecting the health of all of our staff because of the steady volume of runs and it concerns me.”
Wooden believes they may be able to have additional staff by January if they can receive a waiver from FEMA to move the process along.
Response times average around four minutes according to fire officials. Additional staff may be able to help that and may allow them to re-open stations they had to close in the past.
"We have two remote stations that we mothballed about eight years ago. One thing we are seriously researching especially with the benefit of some American Rescue Plan funds is possible opening one of those outside stations but that’s in the infancy right now on a consideration,” Wooden said.
The entire grant will go to paying new employees. The grant lasts for three years.
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