By GREGORY HASMAN
Gillette News Record
January 20, 2020
Campbell County Fire Chief Jeff Bender wants to add more firefighters to help the department in cutting its response time to emergencies and help alleviate staff workloads.
The fire department is in the first year of a three-year-plan that the Campbell County Joint Powers Fire Board created a year ago. It consisted of three recommendations:
Add three battalion chiefs: It would help relieve administration duties for shift captains. Much of the staff is wearing multiple hats, which is causing the heavy workload to trickle down to the rest of the department. Bender said he is most concerned about staffing at station three, which sits on off Southern Drive near Thunder Basin High School. It is staffed only by part-time employees. The fire department hopes to add full-timers to help boost the station’s capabilities. If it is unstaffed because of another fire, that could prevent a challenging situation for the city. “It will continue to be a combination effort of career and part-time folks, but it will let us have more predictable service from that fire station,” Bender said.
Add an additional firefighter to the Wright Station: This was already done. The goal was to ensure that at least two people were on duty, according to a fire department PowerPoint presentation.
Adopt a national standard for deployment performance: The department is looking at National Fire Prevention Association 1720 as a guide to follow. It specifies the requirements for effective and efficient organization and deployment of fire suppression operations, emergency medical operations, and special operations to the public by volunteer and combination fire departments to protect residents and fire department employees. The fire department needs to look at adopting a standard “so we can get out of, ‘It’s one guy’s opinion versus another’s'” scenarios. The standard will also help measure whether or not the fire department is meeting its target or not, Bender said. The target level he hopes the fire department can achieve is ideally the first unit arrives within five minutes of a call while it would take eight minutes for a second crew to get to a scene.
Finding a balance
The fire department wants to add more people so it can get to a fire quickly and prevent major damage, and alleviate the workloads for current firefighters. However, it wants to find the right balance “between daily career staffing and increasing the number of our part-time forces,” he said. “What is that balance between what we have to count on every day and what we still hope is going to show up?” he asked. “There are times then the available resources are not here. We are trying to get a little more depth in our daily staffing.”
Bender updated the City Council last week on those points. “What concerns me is that we have a growing city and we need to make sure all aspects are covered,” Councilman Shay Lundvall said. “It’s our city and we need to take care of it as best as we can.”
Bender will start talking to the board about the upcoming fiscal year 2020-21 budget then go from there.
Lundvall said he is “definitely open and all ears as to what their plans are.”