Great Bend Fire Department faces challenges with limited staff

Great Bend Fire Department (KSN File Photo)

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KSNW) – One city is hoping that a three-year federal grant will help boost its number of firefighters.

The Great Bend Fire Department has had 24 firefighters for as long as the fire chief can remember.

The firefighters are divided between three shifts, four working at both stations per shift.

While the number of firefighters has stayed the same, the number of calls hasn’t.

“Over the years, our call volume has changed and it’s increased,” said Chief Mike Napolitano. “There’s always a need for more people because of the multiple calls we get at one time.”

On Sunday, crews had to respond to two separate fires at the same time.

“The guys were all out on one fire, and then we had another little fire down at the river,” said Napolitano. “We sent one person on our ATV.”

According to the chief, sending one person out to a scene is common when calls overlap, but it causes a delayed response.

“That’s when we need the extra people,” he said.

The department is looking to hire three firefighters, one per shift.

The extra staff would also help the department cut down on overtime. In 2016, the city had to pay for more than 1,800 overtime hours.

The increase in staff would also cut down on response time.

“That extra person would be a big help in getting started on any ambulance run or anything like that,” Napolitano said.

Officials said the grant is around $300,000, covering part of the costs for the extra firefighters. The city would pay the remaining amount.