ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown Rotary Club heard from Fire Chief Nick West regarding the activities of the Elizabethtown Fire Department on Wednesday.
West brought with him the folks who were manning the fire station for the day and they included Deputy Chief Jamie Smith, Jeff Conner, Chad Sholar and Marcus Singletary. The crew was called away during the meeting.
“Without folks like these we would not be able to have the coverage we do,” said West.
He told the group that currently the fire department has 32 volunteers and that eight more are anticipated to join in the future. West also told the group that the department is made up of a combination of paid staff and volunteers which puts it in a unique position when it comes to manpower as well as challenges when it comes to duties and staffing.
“Being a combination department it can be tough to balance career folks and volunteers,” said West.
He added that the volunteers are doing the town a huge service through their willingness to serve.
West told the group that the town has a new fire truck that should be arriving about February. The truck is ordered through KME in Pennsylvania.
“This new truck should help eliminate two trucks,” said West.
He explained the new truck can carry on it a variety of tools as well as about 1,000 gallons of water for firefighting.
West said that the station is also making some changes in the response to calls by changing which trucks respond to different types of calls.
West said the station is currently administering a $267,000 grant for recruitment. West said the grant helps the department to be able to offer stipends to volunteers who are willing to be on call and man the fire station for a 24-hour period. West said that his biggest concern is safety and that it is important that the paid staff have help.
West also said the fire station has a “paid on call” program for the fire district.
The fire crew is also utilizing new technologies. West said they can now get messages on their smart phones letting them when a call is paged out and to where. He said they also receive information about community events. West said that fire fighting is also becoming very social media oriented.
“We are no using iPads to do inspections,” said West.
West said the fire station is also preparing to hire a recruitment and retention officer whose role will be to recruit new fire fighters.
West said he is also writing new policies and procedures as well as “polishing up” existing policies.
He also said that the fire department is preparing to do some hydrant testing around the town. West said the town is required periodically to test the hydrants to ensure they work and to paint them.
Rotarian Darrell Page asked about fitness requirements and West replied that career firefighters are required to do one hour a day of physical training. He said volunteer members are encouraged to do physical training as well. They must pass a physical fitness test annually.
“Heart attacks are the No. 1 killer of firefighters,” said West.
—Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.