Dickinson Fire Dept. seeks grant funding for improving responseThe Dickinson Fire Department is having trouble responding to the increasing number of incidents with its static number of firefighters, officials said Friday. In response, the DFD has applied for a grant that could be the first step in closing the gap.
The Dickinson Fire Department is having trouble responding to the increasing number of incidents with its static number of firefighters, officials said Friday. In response, the DFD has applied for a grant that could be the first step in closing the gap.
“We should be able to assemble 15 firefighters on-scene within nine minutes of the call (for a structure fire), and we should be able to do that 90 percent of the time,” DFD Chief Bob Sivak said Friday. "We're not able to do that."
The DFD has applied for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant, which would pay for three full-time firefighters for two years.
The DFD has five full-time staff members and about 35 volunteers, Sivak said. He said he wished he had twice as many to keep up with the growing population.
“What is asked of these guys and what they do as a volunteer, we really take for granted,” he said. “That volunteer
firefighter in the United States is such a tremendous asset.”
The grant, which is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is meant to help fire departments improve staffing and response times, according to FEMA.
The city would be required to keep the firefighters on staff for a third year. The estimated salary and benefit cost to the fire department in the third year would be about $173,000, Sivak wrote in a letter to the Dickinson City Commission.
An oil boom in western North Dakota has made it difficult for fire departments to attract and maintain staff, Mayor Dennis Johnson said Friday. It is likely that the city will have to rely more on full-time firefighters and less on volunteers.
“The trend is in that direction anyways that we’re going to have to employ more full-time firefighters just because we won’t be able to rely on the volunteer force,” he said. “If we have volunteers who work in the energy industry, they’re not always available.”
There are provisions of the National Fire Protection Association and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that the DFD is not meeting, Sivak wrote in the letter. These standards include meeting staffing levels and response times.
An engine company should have four firefighters. Sivak said the DFD often has two and is lucky to have three.
The DFD once had “an aggressive fire prevention program,” Sivak said, but began to lose ground in 2009. It is approximately two years behind on routine inspections and is losing ground on priority inspections.
“I don’t believe that many people realized how much was going to happen here as fast as it did,” he said.
Dickinson could grow by 10,000 people in three to five years, Sivak said.
“We need three additional people right now,” he said. “If the projections for the growth of the community are accurate, I truly believe that those three people are not going to be enough.”
Fire departments are having a hard time staffing across the country, said Ken Willette, NFPA public fire protection division manager in Quincy, Mass. He commended the DFD for identifying that they are behind on inspections.
“That’s one of the first lines of defense for fire safety is the fire department doing these inspections,” he said. “The community, I hope, will see the value in having enough firefighters to be able to do those inspections.”