The goal is to add 12 to 15 firefighters.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- The number of calls for emergency medical assistance from the fire department here continues to grow and fire officials are adding to the department's staff to keep pace with the demand.
The department is classified as a first responder department for medical emergencies, officials said.
Township trustees agreed last week to hire three new firefighters and fill two positions left vacant by retirements.
The new positions and replacements will bring the total number of township firefighters to 42.
A monthly fire department report shows firefighters responded to a total of 311 calls in August. About 55 were fire-related emergencies, but 235 were medical calls, including emergencies, accidents and assisting invalids.
Township administrator Curt Seditz said the number of EMS calls always outnumbers fire calls, sometimes by as much as 80 percent, but the department cannot hire only medical personnel to address the situation.
The township is looking toward hiring firefighters who are also certified emergency medical technicians.
"Regardless of the number of medical calls we receive, and there are a lot, that does not negate the need for additional firefighters for emergency fire calls," said Seditz. "The firefighters are not just sitting around waiting for Southern Park Mall to burn, but no one expected the World Trade Center to be hit either."
A study by Tridata Corp. in 1999 to assess fire department needs concluded that additional firefighters who were EMT certified should be hired. At the time, the department was 33 strong.
An additional six firefighters were hired in 2001.
The three approved additions will bring the number of new firefighters to nine.
Seditz said the goal is 12 to 15 new firefighters since the Tridata study.
Fire chief James Dorman said the need for additional EMT-certified firefighters is most evident when the department receives calls for fire assistance and medical assistance at the same time.
As an example, he cited the recent fire at the St. James Meeting House in Boardman Park. While all available township firefighters battled that blaze, all building alarms were rerouted to Poland fire departments, he said.
The Tridata study also concluded the township needs upgrades to the fire stations.
Trustees set aside $1 million to complete the renovations, but early estimates were double that amount. Seditz said officials are working to bring that amount down.
Seditz said hiring additional firefighters will not affect the money set aside for building and renovations.