LEBANON JUNCTION – The days of relying on a full volunteer fire department are getting tougher and tougher to come by.
Several years ago, the Lebanon Junction Volunteer Fire Department started a program where firefighters would be paid a nominal fee to be available during the daytime hours.
That program has worked but there are still times when a fire or accident inside the city limits require other departments to respond.
Fire chief Josh Coleman is hoping a pay increase for those rapid response firefighters might entice a few more to staff those difficult day-time hours.
The Lebanon Junction City Council unanimously approved a request to increase the daily stipend being paid to the daytime crew.
The current pay of $40 per day for an eight-hour shift will be increased to $50 per day.
Coleman knew it was not a lot of money but he hoped that the increase would show the firefighters that the city is making an effort.
Councilman Tim Sanders said he noticed there were not always firefighters at the station during the day. He wondered if any runs had been missed.
Coleman said he hated to admit that there were several runs in which other agencies provided service. One was a medical assist and the other was to assist the police.
To be competitive, the daily fee would need to be $75-$100 but he knew that would be difficult.
He included the higher rate in the proposed budget and mayor Larry Dangerfield said that was accomplished by moving some money around from one line item to another.
One question posed by Dangerfield was the standards required for a person to volunteer.
The state fire commission has standards for volunteers and for paid career firefighters.
To serve strictly as a volunteer, state standards are 20 hours a year of training. Paid firefighters must have 100 hours annually.
To be a volunteer, the training is provided on a regular basis and there is a single test to be taken.
Coleman said that the state audits training records but that it can be accomplished. The desire would be for each volunteer to receive 40 hours of training but he said the state does not require that amount.
With the number of calls increasing each year, Coleman said it will continue to be a struggle to find people to volunteer their services. But, he added, this is a national problem.
The Lebanon Junction fire department made 500 runs last year with that number expected to exceed 600 in 2022.
The department received approval to use the federal American Recovery Plan Act funds to purchase extrication equipment and air bags.
Coleman will have to wait until July to learn the fate of his request to hire a grantwriter to seek funds for a new fire engine.
The last new fire engine in Lebanon Junction was purchased in 1999 and it is still operating. But he said the need is there for a new engine.
He thought a grant writer would be able to seek funding for the purchase. The fee to use the grant writer would be around $1,500, a cost to be paid whether or not the city receives the funding.
If the grant is secured for the new engine, the next issue will be to find space to house the equipment.
Sanders wanted a few more details and asked that the decision on the grant writer be made in July.