More Fairfield firefighters to be added in late 2017

The city of Fairfield Fire Department will increase its minimum staffing sometime in the third quarter or later to 17 firefighters per shift. Pictured is Lt. Jamie Ruhl loading on July 25 a gurney into the new Medic 31 ambulance showcased at a Fairfield City Council meeting. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
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The city of Fairfield Fire Department will increase its minimum staffing sometime in the third quarter or later to 17 firefighters per shift. Pictured is Lt. Jamie Ruhl loading on July 25 a gurney into the new Medic 31 ambulance showcased at a Fairfield City Council meeting. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

The city’s four new firefighters — as promised with the passage of November’s fire levy — are set to be hired in the latter half of 2017.

The Fairfield Fire Department’s 2017 proposed budget, which includes incoming and existing levy funds and other revenues, is set to generate just more than $7.6 million in revenue, but the department is planning for just more than $6.3 million for now.

The four new hires won't happen until after the contract negotiations for the International Association of Firefighters Union, which is one of five unions set to be collectively bargained at the beginning of 2017. The fire department will eventually increase the daily on-duty shift from 13 firefighters to 17.

“I would think realistically it would occur no later than the third quarter of 2017,” said Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett of the new hires. “Levy revenues have to be generated. We are going into contract negotiations with all of the bargaining units so the first 2½ months will be quite busy for the city administration.”

Voters approved on Nov. 8 a 2.5-mill fire levy that is set to raise nearly $2.38 million a year. That will prevent the city for the first time since 2013 from dipping into the general fund to balance the fire department's budget.

While the goal is to have a minimum of three firefighters on an engine and two medics on an ambulance, Bennett said the plan is to have six personnel at Station 31/fire headquarters on Nilles Road and Station 32 on Dixie Highway. The plan is to have five personnel at Station 33 on Winton Road.

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The sixth staffers at stations 31 and 32 will operate the advanced life support units, known as ALS, at those stations, Bennett said.

Since 2013 the fire department has dipped into the general fund, which includes an estimated $1.2 million for 2016. From 2013 to 2015, that supplement totaled $1.6 million.

The city’s current fire levy, which was approved 15 years ago at 4.65 mills, still remains and generates roughly $3.75 million annually.

City officials say they will begin to discuss a timetable to add the new firefighters next week.

“We’re starting the plan for it now, now that the money’s been approved,” said City Manager Mark Wendling. “We made a commitment that we’re going to provide a little higher than minimum staffing we’ve been able to provide for the past several years.”

But the additional firefighters aren’t the only changes being made within the fire department. Bennett said staff changes includes moving two part-time positions — a fire safety inspector and a training officer — to full-time positions.

In addition to the IAFF, the city's other bargaining units include, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, International Union of Operating Engineers, and two Fraternal Order of Police unions (patrol officers and supervisors).

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