Ask an Official: Merrill Fire Chief discusses volunteer vs full time staffing
This week’s featured question was submitted for Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone:
The question reads:
“Is Merrill the only full time fire department in the area besides Wausau? How is it decided if a fire department is volunteer or full time? I would imagine there is a big difference in cost for funding one over the other but is the training different too? Is Merrill also the only department that has their staff cross trained for ambulance and fire fighting? Thanks”
Answer as given by Chief Savone:
“The Merrill Fire Department is the only career department in Lincoln County. Besides the Wausau Fire Department other area departments that are career include, Antigo, Rhinelander, Marshfield, SAFER (Rib Mountain) and Tomahawk EMS. There are many different models to organizing a fire department. Some of those model include;
Career: Full Time firefighters
Combination: A mix of full time and part time firefighters
Paid on Premise: Part time firefighters that man the station for an hourly rate
Paid on Call: Part time firefighters that are paid an hourly rate or a stipend when they respond to an incident.
Volunteer: Volunteer their time when they respond to calls or perform other station duties.”
“The career fire service in America is comprised of approximately 350,000 fire fighters. The volunteer fire service numbers are over 800,000 nationally. Local governments decide the type of fire service they want to provide to their community. This determination can be made on population, funding/tax base, geographic needs, incident types and call load. The City of Merrill decided in 1898 that they wanted a career department. History had shown that the lumber industry and the saw mills of the area needed fire protection back them.
“The Merrill Fire Department is an “all-risk, all hazard” fire department meaning that the department is staffed, cross trained, and equipped to provide EMS, Fire, and Rescues incident responses. The station is staffed with on-duty personnel for fire incidents, ambulance calls, mass casualty incidents (MCIs), and technical rescues. Meaning they can respond to any incident quickly and efficiently. For Emergency Medical Services, most members are trained as paramedics with some trained at the EMT level.”
“Funding for the fire departments comes from multiple sources, taxes, grants, and fund raiser to name a few. The assessed evaluation of the response area drives the amount of funding that comes from the tax base for the city. The county assesses a certain amount of their tax rate to go towards the two ambulance services (Tomahawk EMS & MFD) in the county. All county landowners pay towards that funding. Through grants and other fund raising sources the Merrill Fire Department has been fortunate on securing these alternate revenues.
“Training and State Certification in the Wisconsin fire service are two different things. The MFD trains a minimum of two hours every duty day. Every member is a State Certified Fire Fighter II, Driver Operator, Fire Inspector, and trained as a Paramedic or an EMT. The fire officers are trained in the FEMA Incident Command System and various levels of Fire Officer Certifications. Some department members are fire/arson investigation certified and fire service instructor trained.
“While Merrill Fire Department is the only career department in the county, we are the largest population center of the county and we protect 23,000 citizens with both Fire and EMS responses. The EMS response coverage in approximated 59% of the county or about 525 square miles. The other four fire departments in the county have training in both fire and EMS first responder.”
Have a question or concern you would like to address? Simply send your question or concern to firstname.lastname@example.org along with an indication of which entity your question or concern pertains to. Current participants are the Merrill Police Department, Merrill Fire Department, Tomahawk Police Department, Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz, Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson, Merrill Area Housing Authority Director Paul Russell, lincoln county clerk chris marlowe and merrill area public schools (MAPS) superintendent Dr. john sample. Please note: Those who submit to the ‘Ask an Official’ feature remain anonymous.