Brookfield trustees have increased the full-time fire department force by one as part of a plan written into the fire contract that could eventually lead to hiring two more, but for the foreseeable future the department will struggle with filling its shifts.
Fire Chief David Masirovits has proposed changes to pay and hiring requirements to try to attract part-time personnel.
“We’ve had days where there are only two people working,” he said, noting a shift’s full complement is five. “Two people are on an EMS call, that completely leaves the township unprotected from anything else, whether it be first response for an EMT or a paramedic to the scene of an incident or a fire truck to a scene. It leaves us wide open for mutual-aid only.”
On June 16, the trustees hired Thomas Young and Joseph Milano as full-time firefighters and paramedics. Young has been a part-time employee with the department since February 2022, and Milano since November 2020. Young will start off at a base salary of 95 percent of a tenured full-time firefighter, $47,203, and Milano will start at 90 percent, $44,719.
One of the new hires replaces Carly Jackson, who was hired as a full-timer in October but resigned in June to take a better-paying job in Lordstown, and the other becomes the additional hire, bringing the department’s full-time complement to eight, which includes the chief.
Both men are expected to start work in early July, Masirovits said.
The chief has asked the trustees to increase the pay of part-timers from $13 to $15 an hour to $15 to $17 an hour, depending on the level of medical certification. He also wants to be allowed to hire paramedics and emergency medical technicians who are not certified as firefighters to respond to medical calls. So-called single-certification employees would be brought in if there are only two firefighters scheduled to work on a shift. Currently, the department only hires people who are certified as firefighters and EMTs or paramedics.
“We’ve got some interest in people from outside that are EMTs or paramedics only,” Masirovits told the trustees June 23. “I feel that, with our short staffing, that we can make a difference some days by having an EMT on the ambulance with one of our full-time paramedics. That leaves a paramedic back if we have the two full-time on duty and either I can run with them or, at least, they can get to the scene of an incident and begin to set it up or stabilize or whatever the situation may call for. I know one person isn’t ideal, but it’s one person that we wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Trustee Dan Suttles said he was worried about public perception that when Brookfield personnel respond to a fire they are there to fight the fire.
“They would be identified as EMS only,” Masirovits said of single-certification employees. “They would not have turnout gear to fight fires. They would be on that ambulance only, period.”
Single-certification employees also could help out for special events such as football games and the Hartford Apple Festival, the chief said. It is difficult to find people to work those events, he said.
Masirovits has asked the trustees to consider the pay hike and allowance of single-certification employees at their July 10 meeting.
“I just think it’s a tool you need to have available,” said Trustee Mark Ferrara.
Masirovits also is researching getting part-timers into the state pension system, but is not ready to make a recommendation, he said.
“I’m just trying to put together a package that is somewhat enticing to new employees, to people out there, for them to come to Brookfield,” Masirovits said.
Suttles said he appreciates that the chief is trying something new to entice employees, but is worried that the trend of fewer people entering fire and emergency medical careers, the inflation of their salaries and the increasing rarity of long-term employees will continue to hurt Brookfield.
“I don’t want to ever be in a position of saying we can only put one ambulance or one police cruiser a day on, or have three road department employees and we’ll get your road plowed if it takes us three weeks,” Suttles said. “That concerns me as a trustee.”