Fire chief wants fewer volunteer firefighters, more paid ones
The city has 93 volunteer firefighters, but Chief Mike Scott would like to reduce that number to 63
By Melissa Steinken
EAGAN, Minn. — Eagan’s fire chief would like to reduce the size of his volunteer firefighting force — and beef up the paid staff.
Chief Mike Scott is proposing adding 12 full-time firefighters, six in 2018 and six in 2019.
The city has 93 volunteer firefighters, but Scott would like to reduce that number to 63.
Scott’s plan, which he presented to the Eagan City Council, would require a budget increase of 16 percent next year and another 14 percent in 2019.
The average stay for a volunteer firefighter is just under eight years, Scott said, and volunteers sometimes need more training and experience to become good at the job. Over the past 10 years, the number of volunteers has declined and turnover has increased. In the past four years, an average of 17 volunteers have left each year.
Volunteer training costs about $16,000 a year, and uniforms and equipment can cost $10,000 for each firefighter.
Since 9/11, training for firefighters has become more intense and time-consuming, Scott said.
“If you think about the ’70s versus 2017, there are more types of training than you ever would have thought,” he said. “There’s training for school shootings, hazardous materials and more medical calls, which all require certifications.”
“For an emergency response, you have to have a predictable and reliable response team that Eagan does not have right now,” Scott said.
Scott also is proposing that volunteers sign up for shifts, which would make their schedules and the city’s response to emergency calls more predictable.
When emergency calls come in, volunteers are paged at home, Scott said. This adds around five to six minutes in response time and “you never know who is going to show up for a call,” he said.
Eagan has recently consolidated operations at three fire stations, down from six, as recommended by a 2009 city review of fire department operations. Once those stations are fully staffed, there will be less need for volunteers and firefighters on duty will be closer to respond, Scott said.
Eagan City Administrator Dave Osberg said he expects the city council to support the changes when it votes on the 2018 budget in December.
Copyright 2017 Pioneer Press