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Published: Wednesday, 10/5/2005

Swanton: Fire department looks for volunteers

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

With emergency calls on the rise, Swanton is looking for a few good volunteers.

The village fire department is hoping to take on 11 new volunteers to fight fires and do basic emergency medical technician work.

"This year, we've had more runs than we've had in the last couple of years, and the fire chief has recommended we hire more people," said Jon Gochenour, village administrator. "They'll be volunteers. We don't have a full-time fire department, other than the fire chief, and some paramedics."

Swanton Fire Chief Jim Guy said his department has four hourly employees, two advanced life support workers, and two who fight fires and do more basic emergency medical technician work.

The department has a coverage area of 88.5 square miles.

"Our EMS serves an area around Swanton, Swanton Township, Fulton Township; we have an agreement with Toledo Express Airport, and the Ohio Turnpike," Mr. Gochenour said.

Within that area, the population is growing.

The village of Swanton alone has three new subdivisions under construction, which range in size from 60 to 132 lots, Mr. Gochenour said.

The emergency services issue in Swanton is one with which other volunteer departments elsewhere in the country grapple.

"We're like every other fire service in the United States: we're being asked to do more and we're always having to do it with less," Chief Guy said.

"There's always an increased need for service, but the funding just doesn't keep up with the growth."

The lack of volunteers is mostly an issue in the early morning, and during the day.

"It's not so much a lack of personnel - we have 53 people," Chief Guy said.

"It's lack of personnel during the day, and personnel at night. It's hard to go out on an alarm at 2 in the morning, get back at 4, then get up to go to work."

Councilman Jim Bushong, who heads the council's public safety committee, said the department has had 900 runs so far this year, about the total for all of 2004, with 250 more expected by the end of the year.

Chief Guy noted that last year's numbers were somewhat lower than usual, but the general trend is for more calls.

The department takes applications for the volunteers twice a year; the hiring process includes background checks and testing to ensure no problems once the candidates start taking the class.

"We have to pre-screen people," Chief Guy said. "The cost is exorbitant to put them through school, and the classes aren't easy."

And the era of largely untrained volunteers tacking the occasional fire has passed, he added.

"The days of just jumping on the truck with some boots on are out the door," the chief said. "Before, you might have a fire call every couple of weeks, and EMS calls a couple of times a week.

"It didn't take much of their time. Now, there's a constant demand. We definitely don't want any of our volunteers to get burnt out."

Contact Vanessa Winans at:

vwinans@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168



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