Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006
Town and Village

Fire Chief says department faces staffing shortage

PUTNEY—Putney Fire Chief Thomas Goddard warned town officials his department has a serious staffing shortage and that “the system that’s in place is not working well.”

Goddard told the Selectboard at its Aug. 26 regular meeting the Fire Department is “barely getting by” with its current number of volunteer firefighters.

“The way things are, it’s not going to last,” he said, explaining that “every year our call volume is increasing,” but “every year we lose people."

Although he told the board his department has gained a few more volunteers during the previous year, some members have moved or taken full-time jobs outside the community. “Their availability has decreased dramatically,” Goddard said.

He noted this is not a new problem, and the last few fire chiefs before Goddard were challenged to find and keep enough volunteer firefighters.

The chief said he has “no agendas” other than working collectively “to figure out what’s going to work, and how we’re going to get it implemented.”

Goddard said he came to the Selectboard meeting to get the conversation started.

“As the department head, I’m wide open to anything,” he said.

Board member Joshua Laughlin suggested “we could do more in working to recruit volunteers,” but admitted “I don’t know if that’s going to solve the issue.” He noted other towns seem to have an easier time getting and retaining firefighters. Still, convincing volunteers to complete the extensive training is a challenge.

Goddard assured the board “I do everything I can to get the word out."

The board, Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard, audience members, and Goddard discussed the challenge of relying on — and burning out — the same group of locals who volunteer for a variety of committees and functions, and how to bring in new people.

Establishing a “junior firefighter” program, holding a volunteer job fair, and tabling at the town’s community suppers were a few ideas offered.

Goddard recommended starting with the Public Safety Committee, then have public meetings to get the word out. At the Aug. 26 meeting, the Board appointed two new members to that committee: Eric McGowan and Marc Fellows.

Board Chair Stephen Hed said the Public Safety Committee plans to meet in mid-September.

Like what we do? Help us keep doing it!

We rely on the donations and financial support of our readers to help make The Commons available to all. Please join us today.

What do you think? Leave us a comment

Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.

Add Comment

* Required information
1000
Type the numbers for four hundred seventy-two.
Captcha Image
Powered by Commentics

Comments (0)

No comments yet. Be the first!

Originally published in The Commons issue #322 (Wednesday, September 9, 2015). This story appeared on page D2.

Related stories

More by Wendy M. Levy