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Danville Fire Department to start using part-time firefighters for first time

Change being made to help save money

DANVILLE, Va.

The Danville Fire Department will soon have both full and part-time firefighters for the first time.

The change is an effort to save money while the city takes a closer look at the department's needs.

According to a grant-funded 2018 study by the National Resource Network, the Danville Fire Department may have too many firefighters given the city's population.

The organization looked into all city departments to find ways to make them more efficient and save money. 

As a result, a second study is now being done to determine if, in fact, the fire department does have too many firefighters.

Danville Fire Chief David Eagle says it should be complete within the next three months.

"We are currently involved with a public safety expert, consulting group, that is going to look at our city and look at the services we provide," Eagle said.

If using part-time firefighters works well for the department, Eagle said, more part-time firefighters could be used in the future.

"We may be looking at people who have already received all the training and utilizing them on a part-time basis," Eagle said.

In the meantime, to fill the department's 15 vacancies, nine firefighters in the department's training academy will be brought on as full-time firefighters and six will be brought on as part-time when they graduate in July. 

Danville city manager Ken Larking said the department had racked up about $114,000 in overtime between July 1 and April 30 because of the vacancies.

That's about six times more than the previous fiscal year.

He pointed out, however, that the city has actually saved money compared to the previous fiscal year.

"The cost of a regular salary has gone down quite a bit. So if you look at the total cost of staffing for the fire department, we've actually saved money from this year to teh previous year, about $12,000, $13,000," Larking explained.

Despite the need for firefighters, Larking said bringing on all 15 recruits full time doesn't make sense with the study of the department still pending.

"We don't want to have to fill some of these positions with a full-time person, have them change their career or whatever it is they do in order to become a full-time firefighter, then three or four months later the study comes out and says, 'You know what, the city can function just fine without the six positions and, sorry, you're going to have to be laid off.' We want to avoid that at all costs," Larking said. 

Once the study is complete, Larking and city council members will decide if and how to implement whatever it recommends.


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