Sunday, January 25, 2004

Blue Ash enlarges, revamps fire dept.

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BLUE ASH - A month after firefighters expanded their digs to a second station, the department is beefing up its staff and reviewing other changes to improve service.

Two full-time firefighters are being added to the department of 29 full-timers and 14 part-timers, and Chief Jim Fehr restructured his staff this week to add more leadership for firefighters who are now spread out between two stations.

The number of lieutenants has doubled to six, and an assistant chief was added for the first time to help Fehr run the operation.

In swearing-in ceremonies Wednesday, firefighter-paramedics Lou Ernstes, Greg Preece and Mike Bilkasley were promoted to lieutenant to help cover each shift. Rick Brown was bumped up from captain to assistant chief.

Fehr said the new firefighters should be hired by March, which will help keep staffing levels up when other firefighters are sick or take time off.

"We need more people. Right now, we're running a minimum (staff) on the trucks, and we should have more on each truck. Some days, we don't have enough people on duty to get the ladder truck out," Fehr said.

The changes, and added space, also might help the department increase its programs for the public, he said. For instance, officials are reviewing possible expansion of CPR certification courses, which now are offered only when a large group requests them.

Firefighters moved into the $6.5 million Kenwood Road station in mid-December. The Cooper Road station remains open.


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