Lincoln County firefighters seek higher reimbursements for runs

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, March 14, 2019

STANFORD – Last month the Lincoln County Fire Protection District Board voted to increase the reimbursement pay for volunteer firefighters, but according to a letter sent to the board this week, some firefighters believe that increase should have been higher.

Captain Sean Reardon of Fire Station No. 3 expanded on the contents of the letter during the board’s regular monthly meeting Monday night.

Reardon said following last month’s meeting a group of firefighters discussed the recent increase and agreed the reimbursement for officers and firefighters should be higher.

“We felt like something a little bit different could’ve maybe been done with the reimbursement, not necessarily just upping it,” he said.

Reardon said the letter contains four key points, including increasing the reimbursement amount for officers, who carry more responsibility than firefighters.

“They are the ones that should be taking command of your scenes, being a role model on scene, taking care of the fire station,” he said.

In the letter, Reardon writes, “Officers have a lot of work to handle, plus they have worked so much to getting a higher position.”

The other key points include increasing the reimbursement rate for firefighters, offering reimbursement for trainings and offering reimbursements to junior firefighters.

Currently, firefighters and officers are reimbursed $12 per run, no matter their rank, title or how long they are on the scene, Reardon said. Junior firefighters receive no pay for their participation.

“The reason behind the Junior Firefighters is we have at least two in this county who are just as active, if not more, than our firefighters,” he said. “That’s the future of our fire service. If we don’t have Junior Firefighters, we don’t have a future.”

In January, Fire Chief Danny Glass told the board volunteer membership across the county is at an “all-time low.”

Reardon, who is also the Junior Firefighter Coordinator, said offering a small incentive to Junior Firefighters might increase participation in the program.

The program is for ages 15 to 18 years old.

Monday night, Reardon proposed the following: $20 per run for command staff including chief, assistant chief, captain and lieutenant); $15 per run for firefighters, certified or non-certified; and $15 per training class, up to two trainings a month.

“Trainings have also become an issue getting members to show up,” the letter states. “We feel that reimbursement for training would show more recognition in what they do and will help increase training volume.”

He also proposed increasing the pay for firefighters who are on a scene for longer than three hours. Reardon suggested increasing the $12 per run to $15 or $20 after the three-hour time period.

Board member Mike Mullins said he agrees that the board should’ve increased the reimbursement more, specifically for command staff.

“I apologize for that, I know it should’ve been probably $15 and I should’ve kicked in (for) the chiefs because, like I said, they’re responsible for the paper work, they’re responsible for (making sure) the run’s taken care of,” Mullins said. “I was in the fire department for 36 years, I know how they feel.”

Mullins also agreed that volunteers should be paid for at least two trainings per month.

“It ain’t gonna break us,” he said.

Reardon didn’t propose a specific reimbursement rate for Junior Firefighters.

“The two Juniors I know of in the county…they respond to just as many, if not more calls, then some of our firefighters do,” he said.

Board Treasurer Barbara Carrier said if they were to offer payment for trainings to each of the estimated 98-to-99 members, it would cost more than $30,000 a year.

“That’s about all you have budgeted, I think,” Glass said.

“That’s not including runs or anything,” Carrier said. “We are right at our $30,000 budget just for reimbursement for the runs.”

Glass also suggested looking into the state’s child labor laws before moving forward on the Junior Firefighter reimbursement.

“Like I said, I’m just bringing it to the board. Those are just some figures we talked about. The board can decide whatever amounts they want to,” Reardon said.

The board voted to table the discussion until the next meeting. In the meantime they plan to study the budget numbers and research the child labor laws regarding the Junior Firefighter program.