A southern Johnson County volunteer fire department needed to change how the station was staffed after firefighters started getting more calls for help.
Five years ago, people called for a firetruck or ambulance from the Nineveh Volunteer Fire Department about 250 times per year — on average less than once a day. But in the past two years, emergency runs averaged about 400 calls per year.
And if a Nineveh volunteer wasn’t able to respond to an accident or medical emergency, residents would have to wait for emergency crews from Franklin or Bargersville.
Fire Chief Kyle Brooks knew that something needed to change to meet the demand of residents needing assistance. More residents were calling in, needing an ambulance after having a heart attack or medical issue, and Camp Atterbury was calling for medical assistance since more training has been happening.
To solve the issue, two firefighters are now paid to work at the Nineveh station every weekday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the department is in need of more volunteers.
Volunteer firefighters pick one or two days a month to work a paid shift at the station. The shifts rotate among the volunteers, based on who is available, Brooks said. Volunteers who are trained as a firefighter and an emergency medical technician receive $10 per hour during the paid stand-by shifts, while someone who is only certified as an emergency medical technician or a firefighter earns $9 per hour. A volunteer with no certification can get $8 per hour, Brooks said.
About 25 percent of the emergency calls come from Camp Atterbury, which is 3 miles from the station, Brooks said.
In the past, volunteer firefighters lived and worked in the Nineveh area, so they were just minutes from the fire station. But now, volunteers who may live in the area work in Indianapolis or Columbus, so they aren’t able to respond quickly to an accident, fire or medical emergency, he said.
The fire station started paying for two stand-by volunteers back in November, but the department is still facing shortages. The department barely has enough volunteers to keep the program going.
The fire department has about 20 active volunteers, but could use more, Brooks said.
He prefers to have people who are trained in both firefighting and as emergency medical technicians to work during the week, but the department doesn’t have enough volunteers to do that, he said. The department has five volunteers who are trained as both a firefighter and an emergency medical technician, and Brooks wants each person to only work a few shifts per month.
Even with other volunteers willing to help out, many either work in jobs that don’t allow them to work during the week or their regular jobs are 30 or 45 minutes away, Brooks said.
The department has a budget of about $160,000 per year, he said. Brooks looked at the budget and carved out about $42,000 to cover paid staffing during the year, Brooks said.
Paying for the staffing is costly to the department, since it makes up about 26 percent of the annual budget, but it is what is right for the community, Brooks said.
The department could be forced to stop having paid stand-by firefighters if a firetruck or ambulance is damaged or needs replaced, Brooks said.
“If our truck breaks down, there’s the potential that (it) could stop this program,” Brooks said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s all we have.”
The firefighters of Nineveh Volunteer Fire Department have noticed more fire, accident or calls for an ambulance in recent years, prompting a change in how volunteers are staffed. Here’s a look at the numbers:
2015: 387 ambulance and fire runs
2014: 403 runs
2013: 310 runs
2012: 292 runs
2011: 242 runs
2010: 251 runs
Source: Nineveh Volunteer Fire Department