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.