NEWARK, OH (WCMH) — As a local fire department’s overtime costs continue to increase, some relief is on the way with nearly a half dozen new firefighters coming onboard.
The city of Newark applied for and is using federal grants for a total of $1,213,570 to pay for five firefighters/paramedics in an effort to reduce overtime and prevent firefighter burnout.
Overtime has already reached $74,000 this year, which is a 40% raise compared to 2016.
“We don’t want to work our people so much that there is an issue of burnout. We try to rotate them in the best we can, however when you are short on staffing there is sometimes where we have to hold people or call people in that worked a lot that week,” said Newark Fire Chief Patrick Connor.
He said they need 16 firefighters a day just as a minimum to cover three active firehouses, with a minimum of three firefighters per truck and two EMS on each medic.
Although Asst. Chief Nick Simmons, is a commander, he has worked his share of overtime. “If you are working a 24-hour shift and you’ve had very little rest, then to work an additional 12-hour shift can be difficult and physically hard to operate.”
Five new firefighters John Guegold, Brian Neighbor, Austin Von Dach, Shane Ward and Mason Wilkins were all sworn in at Newark’s Firehouse #1 in front of a large crowd of family and friends. The chief said the new hires should help with the overtime, but resignations, illnesses and injuries in the ranks continue to narrow the gain. Newark Mayor Jeff Hall said although these federal grants help, other state and local cutbacks continue to squeeze the budget.
“We have lost a total annually of about $2.4 million, that is $2.4 million less collected every year to fund our largest fund, safety,” Hall said. “All of public safety funds for police and fire come out of the general fund, and with the Estate tax elimination, local government fund cuts we are dealing with a shrink budget at the same time fire runs increase,” he said.
Newark has 78 firefighters taking turns working at the three fire houses around the clock, every day of the year.
Chief Connor said it has taken since September of last year to get these new firefighters through the process and on the job.