(2/2011) The Fairfield Fire Department and EMS Department may be forced to bring on paid firefighters within three years. This would mean higher taxes to pay the firefighters unless something is done soon.
This was the prediction that Fairfield Fire and EMS Chief Adam Brown told the Fairfield Borough Council during its monthly meeting on Jan. 25.
While the EMS side of the operation generates revenue by charging for ambulance transports, the amount it brings in is around $40,000 a year. This amount barely covers the EMS expenses. However, Brown said that if the long-term cost of the ambulances and the fire company’s share of building expenses are taken into account, it would be operating in the black. This situation
could easily grow worse because the EMS company is experiencing reimbursement problems. The insurance companies are starting to reimburse to the patients rather than to the ambulance company and the patients are sending those reimbursements along to the ambulance company.
The situation for the fire company is bleaker. Brown said members are working at various fundraisers to generate income, but it is a struggle. Bingo and games of chance generate some income, but the fire company’s annual expenses rub between $650,000 and $700,000 a year. Also, Brown said if the casino near Gettysburg is approved, it is likely that it will siphon off many
of the gamblers that help make the fire company’s fundraisers successful.
"We’re getting to the point where the fire company is hurting," Brown said.
The EMS company has already been forced to hire paid emergency technicians for daily coverage from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The fire company is still staffed by volunteers.
Brown said it is getting harder to find firefighters during the day to provide coverage. Many of the volunteer firefighters are also finding work in Maryland as paid firefighters. He said it is getting to the point that, "I can’t guarantee during the day that we’ll make it to your house."
The company has been trying to be efficient by cross-training firefighters and emergency technicians, but that can only go so far.
Brown told the council that he wanted to let them know what was happening and what could happen. He is also visiting the other municipalities that the fire company services to let them know about the situation, that the fire company will probably need paid firefighters to staff the company during the day within three years.
Fairfield Council President Patricia Smith told Brown that the council was willing to work with the fire company and the council needed to see financial statements from the company in order to grasp the company’s financial situation.
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