Brainerd to move to mostly volunteer fire department
BRAINERD -- The Brainerd City Council Monday night approved a resolution restructuring the Brainerd Fire Department from a mix of full-time and paid on-call firefighters to a fully paid on-call department.
BRAINERD - The Brainerd City Council Monday night approved a resolution restructuring the Brainerd Fire Department from a mix of full-time and paid on-call firefighters to a fully paid on-call department.
A group consisting of Fire Chief Tim Holmes, city officials and representatives from the Minnesota Professional Firefighters, the firefighters union, have been working on restructuring discussions for about three months. The department currently has five full-time equipment operators who work over three shifts to staff the fire hall 24 hours per day.
The resolution passed on a unanimous vote, and prior to the vote.
Council President Gary Scheeler said the council wasn’t “plowing new ground here.” Of the 781 fire departments in Minnesota, 17 are full-time departments and 73 are combination full-time/paid on-call departments, he said. The rest are entirely paid on-call departments, like the structure Brainerd is moving to.
The department has a pressing need for new equipment.
Council members make difficult decisions, council member Dave Pritschet said, but this decision was “more difficult than most.” But the department “can’t keep going down the same road,” he said.
“We can hire 20 more firefighters, but if the truck breaks down, you’re not going to be able to do anything,” Pritschet said.
A report on the restructuring from Holmes found in the past six months,
80 percent of the time there has only been one full-time equipment operator at the fire hall. There needs to be two firefighters on the truck for it to leave for a call, so the department has “pretty much been a paid on-call department for some extent,” Pritschet said.
The paid on-call department gives structure to the fire coverage, Hilgart said, and allows Holmes to schedule more firefighters during busier times like holiday weekends. It also provides more flexibility if townships serviced by the department decide to look elsewhere for fire coverage.
“We’re able to adjust and make decisions that don’t leave us holding the bag,” Hilgart said. “It gives us an opportunity to put more equipment on the road.”