Frenchtown Fire Station To Add Staffing
Starting in August, when the rescue truck is out on a call, the Frenchtown station will still be manned.
According to Fire Chief Peter Henrikson, the new dispatch staffing agreement approved by Fire District Commissioners Thursday night marks the single biggest change in the EGFD in 40 years.
"The firefighters union has agreed to a memorandum of understanding whereas the dispatch position becomes a collateral position," Henrikson said after the meeting. "It’s a flat hourly rate. The agreement states that it’s no longer part of their assigned duties as a firefighter. That allows us to take that firefighter off the desk and put him on the truck at Station 2 and for the first time in 40 years we’ll have two vehicles staffed at the Frenchtown Fire Station."
Under the current system, if the rescue truck stationed at Frenchtown goes out on a call, there's no coverage while the truck is gone. Any Frenchtown-area emergencies have to wait for the Main Street station to respond. According to Henrikson, that amounts to 15 hours a week the Frenchtown station is empty.
Now, even if the rescue truck is gone, there will be a firefighter on hand to be a first responder.
Henrikson said this is a stop-gap measure while waiting for Warwick dispatch to modernize its equipment enough to be able to take on East Greenwich calls. EG has been working with Warwick for the past year to merge dispatch units, but Warwick has been slow make it happen. According to fire officials, Warwick needs to update infrastructure first.
"So by taking some of the money we would have paid Warwick, utilizing it to do the same thing, to pay our own guys," Henrikson said, they can add a firefighter at Frenchown.
"We call it collateral duties, all other duties other than normal firefighter duties.... Now they’re going to get a flat hourly rate, it’s not time and a half." Pay for the dispatch duty will be $17 an hour during the day, $15 at night, Henrikson said.
William Perry, firefighter union president, agreed the move was positive. "The biggest downfall we had for years … if the rescue's at South County Hospital and you have a person who has a heart attack – now it takes 10, 12 minutes to get there. God forbid, you have a person with respiratory arrest."
Under the new agreement, even if the rescue truck is away, a trained EMS firefighter can arrive at the scene and begin treatment, while a rescue truck is on its way from the Main Street station.
"It's a win-win all around," said an exuberant Henrikson.
In other action, Commissioners elected William Daly as the new chair, with Stephen Bartlett as vice chair. Doug Alexson had been chair, his term ended June 30.