IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - The Idaho Falls Fire Department said firefighters have their work cut out for them, but the people of Idaho won't be paying for their overtime. The Idaho Falls Fire Chief negotiated with City Council members to hire additional personnel.
The decision was made as the number of emergency calls has increased. Firefighters and emergency responders are having to work overtime, which is cutting into city budgets. Fire Chief Dean Ellis is now faced with the duty of decreasing overtime pay, which isn't easy when the department is understaffed.
"Without adding personnel, it's hard to do that (decrease overtime) because we take away minimum staffing if we reduce the number of people on per day," said Ellis.
Ellis said the best solution would be to hire three new emergency workers.
"I would add one person extra per shift to cover someone calling in sick or injured or something like that," he said.
The fire department mans five ambulances full time, with a sixth ambulance part time. The department would not only eliminate 50 percent of overtime pay, but also fill the need for an additional ambulance.
Even though it seems like a permanent solution, the new hires do not come without concerns. If overtime does not decrease significantly, the council will have to decide on an alternative that may leave taxpayers holding the bill.
As for ambulance calls this year, the department has already received 6,000 dispatches, which is high for this time of year. With the holidays approaching, fire officials think they will have close to 8,000 calls by the end of the year.