HYBRID FIREFIGHTER: Forest Lake combines fire duties, city jobs - KMSP-TV

HYBRID FIREFIGHTER: Forest Lake combines fire duties, city jobs

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For many small towns, volunteer firefighters are the cornerstone of their emergency response crews, but as the positions become tougher to fill, one Minnesota town is hoping to demonstrate a new model.

"The days of the butcher hanging up his apron or the grocer hanging up his apron and rushing to a fire are over," Forest Lake Fire Chief Gary Sigfrinius told Fox 9 News.

Many small departments have seen volunteer participation decline -- especially during the day since most people don't work where they live.

"The main thing is: We're a bedroom community," Sigfrinius explained. "People pack up and go someplace and go to work, and it's not in this city."

So, city leaders in Forest Lake came up with a new solution -- combining other open city jobs with daytime fire duties.

The first two positions -- a deputy city clerk and a building instructor -- to double as firefighters as-needed will begin later this month, and officials designed the jobs for double-duty from the start.

Larger departments, such as the Eden Prairie Fire Department, have found other solutions that include using fire inspectors as daytime responders; however, the fire chief, who also sits on the State Fire Chief's Association, is going to help introduce a bill at the Capitol that would give on-call firefighters a $500 tax credit as an incentive.

"As a very small payback for their time and energy," Eden Prairie Fire Chief George Ebensen said.

While lawmakers consider that request, other small governments will be keeping a close on Forest Lake to see if the double-duty approach works.

"I know it's gotten some interest," Sigfrinius said. "I've gotten some calls saying, 'How's it work?'"

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