Mass. fire chief proposes incentive plan to aid volunteer recruitment, retention

The chief suggested two programs to rejuvenate staffing amidst rising call volumes

George Austin
The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.

SWANSEA, Mass. — Swansea Selectman Christopher Carreiro said that he wants an article added to the Annual Town Meeting warrant that will address firefighter recruitment and retention.

Carreiro said he would like to execute Fire Chief Eric Hajder's plan for recruitment and retention. He said Swansea needs to continue to have adequate fire protection. Carreiro said he wants something done about firefighter recruitment and retention sooner than later. He said he does not want the COVID-19 pandemic to get in the way of it.

Swansea Fire Chief Eric Hajder has proposed two programs to help recruit and retain volunteers as call volumes rise in the town.
Swansea Fire Chief Eric Hajder has proposed two programs to help recruit and retain volunteers as call volumes rise in the town. (Photo/Swansea Fire Dept. Facebook)

Carreiro made those comments at last week's meeting of the Board of Selectmen when they were going over articles for the Annual Town Meeting warrant.

Selectmen Derek Heim said firefighter recruitment and retention is important to him and to the Board of Selectmen.

Selectmen Chairman Steven Kitchin said he would like to get some answers to the questions that the members of the Board of Selectmen have about firefighter recruitment and retention, but thinks the article should be put on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.

Kitchin asked to invite Chief Hajder to a selectmen's meeting to discuss what should be done at the Annual Town Meeting to address firefighter retention and recruitment.

The number of volunteer firefighters in Swansea has dropped from 112 in 1998 to the current number of 72. Most of the firefighters lost have either been retiring or leaving town. But while the number of firefighters have decreased, the number of calls have been increasing.

In the proposed plan for firefighter recruitment and training, the chief has suggested two programs, one an annual incentive and the other a pension payment. The two plans would be contingent on a firefighter meeting obligations similar to the tax incentive.

The annual incentive would be a point system where a firefighter would be credited for services rendered.

The Length of Service Award (LOSAP), would officer financial rewards based on a career with a number of years of service. Criteria would include completion of recruit school and remaining an active firefighter, training to the Hazardous Material Operational level, maintain minimum medical training to level of first responder, attendance at a minimum number of training sessions per year, completion of CORE competency training annually and attendance at a set number of emergency responses per year.

The chief has not said how much the plan will cost. A 14-member committee came up with the idea for the proposal.

Retired Fire Chief Peter Burke put a plan in place to give tax benefits of up to $500 to firefighters who qualified based on hours of training and responding to calls to help with retention and recruitment.


©2020 The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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