Source: Sherman Publications

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Brandon seeks to increase number of on-call firefighters

by Susan Bromley

June 06, 2012

Brandon Twp.- Firefighters wanted.

Fire Chief Dave Kwapis requested the township board approve the hiring of three paid on-call firefighters during the June 4 board meeting.

"We are at the lowest we've been in 15 years for paid on-call firefighters," he said. "We are well below the 40 we would like."

Currently, the Brandon Fire Department has 26 paid on-call firefighters, part-time employees that are assigned to a station area, responding when they are available to any and all emergencies in the township. These emergencies include fires, medical calls, HAZMAT, downed wires, and human and animal rescues.

The department employs nine 24-hour staff members with three assigned to each shift. Kwapis and Captain Dan Flood are the two full-time administrative personnel, and Chris Fisher is a full-time administrative assistant. The full-time staff is not enough to get it done, particularly when firefighters have a weekend like last, when they were called out on 18 separate emergencies over the course of two days.

Kwapis notes that not only does there need to be enough personnel to handle a call that comes in, but enough to handle second and third calls that might come in while the first call is being handled. Plus, vacation and sick time needs to be covered.

Within the past two years, the department has had between 26 and 29 paid on-call firefighters on staff, when Kwapis said at least 40 are needed, and he would prefer 45.

He believes the numbers are down because many residents are working two or three jobs or working more hours and are unable to offer help to the department.

Becoming a paid on-call firefighter also requires a significant amount of training, although the training is provided free of charge.

Applicants must become Firefighter 1 and 2 Michigan certified, requiring about 200 hours of training over the course of five to six months. Classes are two nights a week and occasional weekends and culminate in state practical and written exams. After fire training, applicants must obtain a State of Michigan basic emergency medical technician license, earned after 220 hours of training.

"The issue it comes down to is a lot of people show an interest, but they have to get the training," Kwapis said. "I would like to have at least three to six trainees every year. We can definitely use individuals interested in giving back to the community, who want to help out their fellow citizens in times of need, that would be willing to dedicate a year to being trained and after that would be willing to maintain a dedication to the community, responding as needed for emergencies."

Applicants must be at least 18, with a high school diploma, no felonies, and a clean driving record. New recruits also need to be caring, compassionate, capable of working in a team environment and have a desire to become part of the family that is the Brandon Fire Department, Kwapis said.

For more information, stop by Fire Station #1, 53 South St., Ortonville, to pick up an application or call 248-627-4000.