Posted by Brooke Gilmore | Apr 10, 2021
The Salida Fire Department has recently increased the number of firefighters working per shift which the city believes makes Salida a safer place to live, work and recreate.
The department splits time between three different 48-hour shifts. Historically, the shifts consisted of a shift captain, a senior firefighter and a firefighter. Due to required paid time off, out-of-town training and wildfire deployments, the department was often left with only two people working at a time, making overlapping incidents a logistical challenge and creating a safety hazard for the firefighters during structure fires. This was especially concerning as the city’s population has grown as well as the emergency call volume.
In February, the department hired Josh Jelcick, culminating a three-year staffing plan. All three of the shifts now include a captain, senior firefighter, driver/operator and a firefighter. All of the staff are trained at a minimum of Colorado State Firefighter I and EMT Basic with IV certification. They also currently hold certifications above the minimum requirements.
With four firefighters on at all times, there is no delay in providing care when two incidents overlap. This change also increases the chance firefighters can control a structure fire faster, translating to less damaged property and more lives saved.
According to Fire Chief Doug Bess, in addition to safety benefits, the four-person shift has made the department more efficient and effective. When the crew is paged to a medical incident, two staff members respond in a pickup truck equipped to run medical calls, which reduces wear on the fire engine and minimizes their carbon footprint. The other two staff members remain at the fire station and are available to handle the next call.
Bess, who has been with the department for 27 years, originally proposed the staffing increase and its plan. With retirement on the horizon, he intends to mentor Assistant Chief Kathy Rohrich as his replacement. Rohrich is a 15-year veteran of the department and would be the first woman in charge of the Salida Fire Dept.