SPRING VALLEY TOWNSHIP — Thanks in part to a federal grant, Spring Valley Township Fire Department (SVTFD) will look to hire two more firefighters.
The township’s trustees recently accepted the $798,534 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program award from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The SAFER Program helps departments maintain 24-hour staffing by providing funds for hiring, recruiting and retaining front-line and volunteer firefighters to increase the number of units responding to emergencies in their communities.
“Ohio firefighters and first-responders work every day to protect our families,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “We must support our first-responder organizations so that communities like Spring Valley Township have the resources to shield families and homes from fire hazards.”
SVTFD, operating since 1950, currently employs two paid firefighters during the day and relies on on-call staff in the evening who are paid by hour per call.
New firefighters will not replace any on-call staff; those employees will continue in their current support roles.
But finding two more firefighters may not be so simple for Spring Valley.
“Different organizations, like National Fire Prevention Association, tell us how many firefighters we need on scene. It’s very difficult for our department to meet that,” SVTFD Fire Chief Rusty Cross said. “With a shortage of firefighters in our area, I feel it’s going to be an obstacle to get firefighters. All fire departments in the area are down on staffing and hurting for firefighters.”
Cross said equipment and apparatus isn’t cheap, but staffing is the biggest cost.
“We want to make sure we have good, qualified members and make sure they’re well-trained,” he added.
And while the department in the rural township is not “super busy,” it does rely on neighboring departments to help out.
Five neighboring departments helped respond to the fire at the Marathon gas station in the township Oct. 4.
“All of the departments in this area work very well together. When the fire came out at 4:30 in the morning, that was during our ‘volunteer’ (paid on-call) time. I did have eight members at our department and myself show up to that. Sometimes members won’t be on duty but they show up,” Cross said. “We got both our engines out our door pretty quickly for that fire so it did make a big difference.”
The grant covers a three-year period, with the department receiving 75 percent the first year, 75 the second year and 35 the third.
“We want to try to fund the grant afterwards to try to keep those individuals in the department and running 24 hours a day,” he said.
While it’s not a guarantee that he’ll soon have four firefighters on duty, Cross said this grant will allow the department to start pushing toward that.
Said Cross, “That is the goal and the hope — to have four people on duty to be able to go out on the fire engine and provide service to our community and to our mutual aid departments.”