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merging fire departments

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  • merging fire departments

    I am looking for information on the pro's and con's of merging a county fire department with a city fire department. What would the benefits or risks be for the county's full-time and reserve firefighters tax rate, department etc.

  • #2
    Mergers can be a good thing, if handled well and professionally.

    It sounds like your's will be bigger than the one our department did 5 years ago, but I think some of our experience is useful.

    Some pros? Better division of labor. I say that in that you don't have two Chiefs, etc, each having to setup their own training programs, records management, SOPs, etc -- a lot of this takes just as long for one station as five, and it's kinda silly for every volunteer station to spend vollie time re-inventing the wheel for their own use. Larger departments can also offer more oppurtonities -- specialized units, etc.

    Here was our situation. Our Town, like many in are area, had three independent departments. Two ran 250+ calls a year, on ran about 25 (West Wauregan). The Chief of West Wauregan decided it was time to retire, an none of his senior officers wanted to take on the additional responsibilities. It also takes just about as much administration time to run a department for 25 calls as 250.
    Their top officers approached our top officers and asked about a merger. Once we agreed to a friendly merger, their membership was given one more chance at a general meeting -- their Chief basically said if someone wanted to be Chief and keep the department independent, he would support them but felt the long term interest was towards merger.

    The merger was instantanoues. It was made public to the two departments around November, and at the January meetings, we voted to accept the merger and they voted to merge the same night. It was effective that night at midnite, and within a few weeks all the legal instruments were effected to transfer their property to us, and although we considered maintaining their incorporation as a subsidary (don't ask why...it gets complicated but had to do with finances and fund raising!)we finally decided simply disband their corporation.

    By pre-arrangement, three of their officers came over at the same rank to our department (an ***'t Chief, Captain, and Lieutenant), their ex-chief joined our Board of Directors, and the dispatch center started blowing their tones for our calls, and basic SOPs handed out.

    I think the "instant" part helped. If the merger happens over time, it gives people more time to gripe, complain, and have second thoughts than move forward as a unified body. People knew it was on the table, had an oppurtonity to take a leadership role if they didn't feel it should happen, and when it was decided to, it was done.

    At the time of the merger, they had about 18 active members, 12 of whom continued active, although after a year we only had about 6 still active -- but those six have remained active through this day.

    One of the factors in the attrition was we are a much more active (intense?) department in our call volume, training requirements, etc., and while it offers more oppurtonities it also means more of time commitment sometimes.

    We were also sensitive to their history. While within a few months we had our name on their apparatus, we continued their name. Our main station's trucks have always been labeled "Mortlake Fire Co., Brooklyn Conn." so the West Wauregan trucks became "Mortlake Fire Co., West Wauregan, Conn." and the station signs are done the same way. We are one organization, but we recognize the contributions made by the past members and supporters of West Wauregan.

    Oh yeah, the other nod we gave to them to help the transition was assigning their ex-chief and ex-deputy chief to the roles of our department's safety officers.

    Also, my own humble opinion, is the best organization generally regional combination departments. Now I come from an all volunteer area, with pretty good staffing all things considered. But it would be nice to be regionalized and share much of the business/support needs, better coordination of apparatus & resources, and have a core of paid staff that can help with office management, daytime staffing & operations, etc. I think the key though is everybody pulls their weight, and not get an attitude about the other group.

    Well, I've babbled enough

    [This message has been edited by Dalmation90 (edited November 14, 1999).]


    • #3
      I agree with Dalmation 90. If mergers are done correctly, they can be beneficial. Unfortunately, there is another party involved: the politicians. A while ago, a selectman from one of the communities in our area was driving past a station is his town and then drove past one in a neighboring community. The neighboring town had recently put a new aerial in service. He was wondering, since his community was also looking to replace a ladder truck, why couldn't they merge departments or share a ladder truck? Why couldn't more towns merge to form one fire department for the region? He also was quoted on the line "this will save the taxpayers money, instead of nine fire cheifs, there will only be one". This thinking is dangerous for both firefighters and the public. Number one, in order to regionalize/comsoildate/merge, it takes $$$$!
      Equipment, apparatus, and communications must be standardized. All SOPS and SOGS must be reviewed, EMS protocols reviewed (some communitiees run the ambulance as part of the FD, others rely on private services). Another sticking point is pay scales, contracts and staffing. Who's contract will you go by. How will the division of labor be handled? The selectman in question has absolutely no clue as to what the fire service is, he is the type of politician that thinks with his wallet. Don't rush into things, use your head!!!


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