Fire fighters in Rim Club Station administration offices

Firefighters in the Rim Club Station administration offices. A recent study on the Payson Fire Department’s needs as the town grows found the addition of four positions would remove administrative duties that have taken over core duties. The council will discuss options during a Dec. 7 work study meeting.

The Payson Fire Department is pushing for an ambitious wish list to cope with growth, including perhaps two new fire stations, new equipment and an increase in staff.

A consultant’s report supports all those expensive requests, which the Payson Town Council will consider at a Dec. 7 study session. The recommendations from the Public Safety Research Group will dominate the discussion.

“The growth we have will be volume increase, rather than geographic,” said Chief David Staub during a tour of the Main Street Fire Station.

In fact, the PSRG study found call levels have steadily increased over the past 11 years from 2,465 to 3,893 per year – a 57% increase. About 90% of those calls involve medical emergencies and other problems besides fires.

The increase in call volumes “means not necessarily more stations, but more equipment and staff,” said Staub.

In a Nov. 23 story, the Roundup discussed the fire station recommendations. The PSRG study recommended the town tear down the Main Street and Rancho Road stations and replace them with a new two company station in the town hall complex.

When it comes to personnel, PSRG recommends the department increase staff by 11% to 40 over the next four years. All the new positions cover primarily administrative needs, including an additional chief officer, secretary/clerk, another fire inspector, and a logistics officer.

The additional positions would remove administrative tasks such as fleet and building maintenance and record keeping from the battalion chiefs, the fire inspector, and administrative assistant.

“We have tipped the scale. We don’t have enough people,” said Staub. “We have less management today than when we had one fire station.”

In the case of the administrative assistant, “We have no one to back up Monica (Savage),” said Staub. “There are things she does no one does.”

When Payson only had one fire station, the department had fewer companies.

The additional two fire stations require more companies, which adds to the complexity of administrative duties, said Staub.

To cover the town’s fire and medical needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the fire department schedules 48-hour shifts. The fire department compresses a week’s worth of hours into that 48-hour shift. So, firefighters and battalion chiefs remain on duty for two days straight, including sleeping at the fire station. They’re off for five days.

A company runs each shift. Each company has up to three firefighters — a captain, considered the supervisor, an engineer who both drives and fights fires and a paramedic firefighter.

The battalion chief manages the three fire stations for one 48-hour shift.

Payson has three battalion chiefs, one for each 48-hour shift.

If the battalion chief works one 48-hour shift, they have already worked more than a standard work week, but only two days out of that standard work week.

It makes scheduling a repair job challenging.

One battalion chief said if he doesn’t get a call-back while he’s on shift – it can delay necessary repairs or purchases for a week.

“They are doing two to three jobs what in another organization is done by more people,” said Staub.

The chief would rather see his battalion chiefs focusing on making sure staffers have what they need to serve the public.

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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(3) comments

Phil Mason

So, the Fire Chief commissions a study from the Public Safety Research Group to tell him that he needs a larger bureaucracy to keep up with the other town departments that is bloated with 50% more staff per thousand population than other towns across the Rim Country and the rest of the state.

I am only shocked about some basic facts re: the PSRG. It appears the group consists of one person - a decidedly small group. The "report" is for all intents and purposes a boiler plate special with Payson Fire Chief preferences plugged in.

The Corporation Commission shows NO business filling for the "group" other than being listed as a trade name. As we have noted many times, the person paying for the study nearly always gets a report that fits the desire of the person paying for the report or the report never sees the light of day.

Even the PSRG "company" website only lists one person, no corporate structure and no other "group" members. Jon Altmann is, from all appearances, a good guy, but it appears he only gets contracts to provide those in the industry fodder to increase staffing.

The Fire Department has plenty of areas that need addressed and the addition of more bureaucracy should be at the bottom of the pile - and stay there, Payson taxpayers are already being over taxed and under served. We should not go down this rabbit hole.

Michael Heather

It is highly unlikely that any resident would complain about adding more firefighters or EMTs. They save lives and property. This article and study do nothing to further public safety, it only attempts to justify even more management. Management does not put out fires, does not respond to 911 emergency calls. If the town really wants to spend money on the FD, why not buy 3 ambulances and put them to good use?

Phil Mason

Good call, Michael. We actually have enough EMTs, but they are only capable of doing half the necessary medical service to Payson citizens. For critical health services, timely transport, and cost effective community program, the Town should acquire three ambulances - there are plenty quality vehicles available in AZ at a good price - and enable our highly qualified EMTs to provide full service with less risk in emergency situations.

PS: Adding unnecessary office staff is a bad idea. The picture of the hectic pace inside the Fire Station - high quality recliners in full use - demonstrates the staff has plenty of dime to do the proper paperwork and backup actionsl

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