By LYDIA BERGLAR
Beginning in January 2023, the Trenton Fire Department will have two part-time firefighters per day. Like all fire departments in Dade County, the Trenton department has only been able to serve thanks to many volunteers over the years. Adding paid positions is a significant step in ensuring proper response.
Joining existing staff Jerry Kyzer (fire chief) and Ansel Smith (assistant chief/building inspector), part-time firefighters will be on a rotation, working no more than three days per week. Ahead of each month, the firefighters can choose which days they are available to work. There are currently about ten firefighters who will be on the rotation.
Smith explained, “One will come in from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. when most of our volunteers are at work. Chief Kyzer is usually here early, and I stay late.”
Kyzer added, “We’re doing interviews and going through the whole process just like when you’d be hired by a company.”
The funding was added to the 2023 budget. Smith reported, “We’ll get with the commissioners and mayor each year to keep it in the budget.”
The department will still rely on volunteers and will be considered a volunteer department, but the new paid positions will ensure coverage throughout the day when most volunteers are at their jobs.
The current pay per call system will continue so that volunteer firefighters receive some compensation for each call they respond to. Smith explained, “They have to complete 18 hours of training every quarter to receive pay per call.” Alex Case (mayor and EMA director) added “If they don’t meet any of their training hours, they don’t get paid for any of their last three months calls.”
Case and Smith explained that to receive full credit through the Insurance Services Office (ISO), four responders must be on the truck when responding to structural fires. “We’ve worked hard in our community to secure our ISO rating,” said Case.
He continued, “On every structure fire, there are three departments responding, with four responding to commercial/industrial structure fires. On all calls, we back up North Dade, South Dade, Davis, and part of New Salem. With structure fires, we now go to everything in West Brow. If three departments in the county are responding, the other four are on standby.”
According to Case, “It’s been a 20-year effort to have paid people here. Jerry came on full-time in the 2000s as fire chief and inspections. I worked part-time for the city then. When I was elected mayor, Ansel came on. They both worked at career fire stations before, and we do have several volunteers who work at career fire departments like Catoosa and Cherokee.”
Case said that Trenton and Dade County firefighters – whether full-time, part-time, working at career stations, or volunteering only – all have the same amount of training.
Finding volunteer firefighters is a difficult issue due to time constraints. With many volunteers working during the day, their response hours generally cover evenings and weekends.
Case explained, “Getting volunteers…it’s bad across the county and nationwide. Many people just don’t have the time, and if they do, it’s in the evenings. If someone said they want to start volunteering and we put them on the roster, we have one year to get them trained, but nobody can take off 15 weeks to go to the academy. We do basic fire training, and Ansel is an instructor.”
Case added that all emergency responders are preparing for the coming cold. “We have winter weather that we’re preparing for. It’s our worst time of the year.”