South Hutch City Council favors return to volunteer fire department if possible

By Adam Stewart
South Hutchinson – May 2, 2017

Photo by Travis Morisse

Based on discussions with South Hutchinson City Council members, City Administrator Matt Stiles said Monday it appears the goal for the South Hutchinson Fire Department is to return to an all-volunteer department.

Background: South Hutchinson has been discussing at length what direction to take the fire department in for months. Stile said that based on his conversations with council members, moving toward an all-professional department and contracting with Hutchinson for all fire protection appeared to be off the table.

Currently, the department uses volunteers at night, while paid part-time firefighters cover days and weekends when fewer volunteers are available to respond to calls.

The issue: The reason South Hutchinson uses the hybrid system is that it hasn’t been able to get enough volunteers who could respond during the normal work day. But when a structure fire was reported at 3:30 a.m. April 26, there was a good response.

So, Stiles said, moving in the direction of an all-volunteer department would take a major recruiting drive, and he said there was some skepticism about how successful that would be.

Transition: Even if recruiting goes well, the department likely would need to take transitional steps to make the change. Those could involve cutting back from three to two paid staff during the day, or offering on-call pay to volunteers who commit to being available on a weekend.

Medical calls: Stiles said the question of having a volunteer or hybrid department didn’t address another major issue facing the department: What kinds of medical calls should firefighters respond to? Medical calls represent the great majority of fire department responses.

Assistant Fire Chief R.C. Watson said he didn’t see cutting back on what kinds of medical calls to go to as a good decision for the community. If firefighters can be the first on the scene to help someone, why wouldn’t they want to be, he asked, saying the fire department’s business is helping people.

Meeting: No action was taken. The council previously scheduled a town hall meeting about the fire department for 7 p.m. May 22 at the community center.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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