Lowell, Tri-Creek officials talk volunteer fire staffing

2013-07-24T18:00:00Z 2013-07-24T22:52:04Z Lowell, Tri-Creek officials talk volunteer fire staffingMelanie Csepiga Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 24, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

LOWELL | The Lowell Volunteer Fire Department will have the money needed to equip five new firefighters to address a lack of daytime volunteers.

However, ambulance service emergency medical technicians with firefighting training might respond on daytime calls until the new volunteers are trained. Such responses by EMTs recently prompted town and township officials to consider bringing on more volunteer firefighters.

Most of those attending a recent work session to address the staffing problem seemed to agree that increasing the roster is a temporary fix and future meetings are needed to handle staffing and other issues faced by the department.

The Lowell Town Council, representatives from Cedar Creek, Eagle Creek and West Creek townships, the Lowell fire chief and assistant chief met to find an answer to the worsening shortage of daytime volunteers.

"Increasing the volunteer staff is a Band-Aid," said Councilman Don Parker, D-3rd.

Council Vice President Craig Earley, D-1st, who chaired the session, said now is the time to take a closer look at merging the Tri-Creek Emergency Medical Service into the Volunteer Fire Department for cross-trained personnel.

"We've been trying to find a solution for a few years. ... We haven't made any headway," Earley said.

Assistant Fire Chief Charlie Scott, also co-director of Tri-Creek EMS, said he favors a merger.

It's a move many Indiana volunteer fire departments have taken recently to increase responders and manage costs.

Most recently, efforts to establish a fire territory were quashed.

Not facing the high tax increase farmers would have experienced with a fire territory prompted Martin Krol, who fought the fire territory, to make a donation.

"I'll sponsor one firefighter for $2,500," he said.

He thinks many residents of rural areas would be glad to step up, he said.

Randy Wietbrock pledged to sponsor one firefighter as well.

West Creek Township Trustee Alice Dahl said her office would pay for two firefighters, and Eagle Creek Township Trustee Rosemary Morrow said her office would pay for one.

Fire Chief Clint Gorball said it takes $2,500 to $3,000 to equip each volunteer. With five sets of equipment pledged, the department was urged to begin the process of bringing on five more volunteers.

Information that a 35-person cap kept the Volunteer Fire Department from increasing its roster was inaccurate.

Dahl said that number is arbitrary and was based on what the townships could afford at the time the caps were established.

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