Fire department adds to ranksThe Superior Fire Department welcomed four new members this week. They’ll be joining the fire crews Monday, following a week of training.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The Superior Fire Department welcomed four new members this week. They’ll be joining the fire crews Monday, following a week of training.
Thursday, that meant suiting up in more than 50 pounds of equipment and navigating blind through a set of obstacles, from hanging wires to basement windows, as they followed the hose line to safety.
We're preparing people for the worst, said firefighter Mike Hoyt, who set up the course. Although it doesn’t happen often, he said, the key to surviving is training and practice.
Thanks to a federal SAFER grant, each of the department’s nine fire crews will be staffed with four people a captain, a driver and two firefighters.
When we’re fully staffed that's a huge difference, said Battalion Chief Vern Johnson. There could be a lot more positive outcomes because of that.
Previously, many crews only had three members. An extra firefighter means another pair of hands, eyes and ears the minute they pull up to a situation.
That extra set of hands, it means everything, said Capt. Erik Sutton. They can get things done faster and more efficiently.
It could save a life, said Battalion Chief Scott Gordon. That’s why it’s the National Fire Prevention Association standard.
The four new members Robert D. Zimmerman, who served as assistant chief on the town of Superior Volunteer Fire Department, former Gold Cross paramedic Corey J. Larson of Duluth, James D. Corwith of Reedsburg, Wis., and Matthew D. Noll of Chaska, Minn. will also bring new ideas and education to the department, Hoyt said.
The SAFER grant, secured by retired Fire Chief Jim Rigstad, funds six firefighter positions. That provides a savings to the city, better safety for residents and the possibility of a lower ISO rating, which affects insurance rates. But the $955,000 grant, secured through FEMA, ends in 2015. The purpose of the grant is to give fire departments a short-term boost as they look for a long-term way to maintain standard staffing levels.
We know we have an opportunity here and a time span two years to try to make that happen, Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger said. Hopefully we can come up with some ideas during that time. Anyone who knows of a possible funding solution is encouraged to call the department, he said.
The grant came at an opportune time. Staffing cuts had become so severe last fall that there was talk of closing one of the city's three fire stations. A study conducted by the department showed the city was actually spending more money by cutting firefighters because of overtime costs. It came down to a decision between filling a position or losing an engine company, Panger said.
At that point, the city committed to maintaining a minimum of 33 firefighters. With the aid of the SAFER grant, that number will rise to 36 by summer's end. Panger said one more firefighter has yet to be hired.