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City looks to hire volunteer firefighters
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The city of McMinnville is looking to begin a Volunteer/ Reserve Firefighter program to alleviate unscheduled overtime concerns at McMinnville Fire Department. Up to six individuals will be hired and paid for their services.
“We were told to explore the possibility of getting volunteers to work unscheduled overtime when we are short staffed in the department,” said McMinnville Fire Chief Kevin Lawrence. “This will not affect built-in overtime.”
The department has two types of overtime, built-in overtime and unscheduled overtime. Unscheduled overtime occurs when someone is absent due to injury, illness, etc.
The department currently has two frozen positions and one individual on medical leave, with two more recently returning from medical leave. In the 2010-11 fiscal budget year, $27,600 was budgeted for unscheduled overtime pay. The amount has been used and two more months remain in the year, says Lawrence.
Establishing a volunteer program is an effort to cut expenses at the fire department, which may be an effort to prevent the closing of Station 2.
“We were told to look for ways to cut expenses,” human resource administrator Fredia Black said to the question of whether this program is an effort to save Station 2. “Kevin and I have decided to try this. I contacted other cities in Tennessee to see what has worked and what hasn’t. We based this program on what was successful.”
Lawrence says there is no way to tell if this program will save money in the long run.
“We are in uncharted waters,” he said. “We just don’t know. I do know I had one firefighter with 90 hours of overtime. This program, if we get enough qualified people, will cut down on that.”
Volunteer firefighters will fill in for full-time fire department employees at either Fire Station 1 or Fire Station 2 when they are off work and the shift is considered to be short staffed.
Those in the program will be paid $15 a day for training (approximately four hours per month) and $100 per shift for a recruit/ firefighter I, or $125 per shift for a firefighter II. In extreme emergency situations (not all calls), individuals asked to respond will be paid $15 per day.
Requirements to be a volunteer firefighter include having a high school diploma or equivalent, a valid Tennessee driver license, satisfactory completion of firefighter school level recruit/ firefighter I, and physically able to wear a complete set of protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus for extended periods of time.
Also, individuals must be able to work a 24-hour shift (from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m.) and move and/ or carry objects or materials up to 150 pounds occasionally and/ or excess of 75 pounds frequently. In addition, some tasks require the ability to exert moderate force, typically involving some combination of stooping, kneeling, crouching, and/ or crawling, and which may involve some lifting, carrying, pushing, and/ or pulling of objects and materials.
Volunteers will not be “toned” or “paged” for “all calls” that go out. If there is an extreme emergency situation, volunteers will receive a telephone call from either E911 or the scene commander on where and when they should report.
Applicants considered for one of up to six positions that will be filled must be examined by a city-designated physician to make the determination if they will be able to perform all essential duties required and successfully pass a drug screen.
Also, volunteers are required to sleep at the fire station and are held to the same guidelines and policies as a city of McMinnville employee. They will not be permitted to drive the fire engine or respond to first-responder calls.
In accordance with Tennessee law, an employee in this program will have insurance coverage through the Tennessee Municipal League (TML) at no cost to the volunteer.
The program can be used as a gateway into obtaining a permanent position in the department, if one becomes available. However, there is no guarantee a volunteer will get the job.
“When a position in the city is open, we look within the department first,” said Black. “They will be considered along with every other employee. If we do not have anyone qualified, then we advertise in the public sector.”
While applications are being accepted at this time, the program is not a done deal.
“We have to report our findings to the board,” said Black. “It’s either going to be yes we think we can do this, or no we don’t think we can. It all depends on if we receive enough qualified individuals.”
One of the biggest problems initially facing the program will be the training requirement. To be considered for the program, individuals must already have the minimal training as a recruit/ firefighter I. The city will not fund that training, says Black.
Applicants must submit all required documents before being considered for a position. For more information or to apply, contact Fredia Black at 473-1209.