Saturday, August 18, 2001

Kenton fire departments looking for volunteers

Fire chiefs unite for campaign

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        INDEPENDENCE — For the first time, Kenton County Fiscal Court and 14 fire chiefs are coming together to recruit volunteer firefighters.

        The campaign kicked off with a press conference Friday at the Independence fire station. There will be banners in every city except Covington and a phone number — (859) 823-5000 — for people to call for information.

        “The volunteers are still the lifeblood of the fire and EMS (Emergency Medical Service) in this county,” Kenton County Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd said.

    There are 15 fire departments in Kenton County. All but Covington rely in part on volunteers to answer calls.
    The first of two orientation seminars begins 9 a.m. Aug. 25 at Bromley, Crescent Springs, Elsmere, Erlanger, Fort Mitchell, Fort Wright, Independence, Kenton, Ludlow, Park Hills, Ryland Heights and Taylor Mill.
    Seminars in Piner begin 9 a.m. Sept. 8, and Edgewood's starts at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 8.
        Fiscal Court paid about $20,000 for banners reading “Consider Making a Difference — Become a Fire/EMS Volunteer,” for posters, and for fliers that will be mailed to county residents.

        The departments will offer orientation seminars starting next Saturday.

        Friday's announcement is the latest step in an effort by the fire chiefs to be more unified in their coverage. They have been talking about that for at least a year.

        Elsmere Fire Chief Paul LaFontaine, president of the Kenton County Fire Chiefs Association, said other topics included better coordination of dispatching and finding ways to pay volunteers a lump sum when they leave their departments.

        There are 14 departments in Kenton County that rely on volunteers. Covington does not.

        Chief LaFontaine said there about 800 paid and volunteer firefighters in the rest of the county, with at least 85 percent of them volunteers.

        Erlanger Chief Bill Martin, a former state fire marshal, said on rare occasions there are not enough volunteers in one department to answer a call. He would not say which department had such a problem.

        Independence Fire Department Capt. Charles Baird said the problem is not in recruiting.

        “It's retention,” Capt. Baird said. “People live complex lives. They have a lot going on in their lives. Both spouses are working.”

        Chief LaFontaine said the campaign goal is to recruit 100 new volunteers, but he'll be happy with less.

        “If each agency got one person,” Chief LaFontaine said, “We would consider that successful.”


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