In a file photo, Santa Clara-Ivins fire starters respond to a burning SUV and trailer in the driveway of a house in Ridgeview Circle, Ivins, Utah. May 5, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News
IVINS — Ivins City Council members said they were angered by the layoff of volunteer firefighters from the Santa Clara-Ivins Fire Department. This decision was the latest in the dispute between Ivins and Santa Clara over their joint fire department.
Both sides will have the opportunity to air their differences in a public forum, with the first joint city council meeting of the two towns scheduled for August 3.
The fire department chief who is overseen by Santa Clara officials with additional funding from Ivins said the moves were due to firefighters not working many shifts or not being properly trained .
The dispute began in May when the Ivins board expressed concern that by the end of 2021 the department had begun to leave the Center Street Fire Hall unstaffed, basing all firefighters and emergency medical service workers from both cities based in Santa Clara at the Rachel Drive station.
On June 16, the Council of Ivins authorized $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to fully equip Center Street Station and an additional $50,000 July 7 to improve the station’s alert system. Yet, with the exception of temporary staff for the July 4 holiday and Pioneer Day, Center Street remains unstaffed.
“Now they’re laying off volunteers who could have helped us a lot on Center Street, so it’s ridiculous. We’re just crazy,” Ivins Council member Mike Scott said at the July 21 council meeting. “We paved the way six weeks ago for Center Street staff, except they have reduced the number of volunteers. We intervened, but Santa Clara controls the production and they do nothing.
At the close of the board meeting on Thursday, as board members reported, board member Dennis Mehr revealed he had been told that six or seven department volunteers had been terminated. Volunteers are not full-time employees of the department and receive either part-time pay or no pay at all and usually work day jobs.
Mehr mentioned that a released volunteer had worked for the department for 19 years, first in Ivins and remained after Ivins and Santa Clara. merged their departments in 2018.
“She missed three days, two due to COVID. She got a call last night from the battalion commander terminating her job,” Mehr said. “It’s not OK. Even if it is, you don’t call someone on the phone and end it at 8:03 p.m. It’s not OK.
Santa Clara-Ivins Fire Department chief Andrew Parker told St. George News that Mehr’s claim that “six or seven” volunteers were fired was incorrect. He said the department fired three volunteers, but added two more at the same time for a net loss of one.
“We had three part-timers that we fired,” Parker said. “Two hadn’t worked a shift for two or three months. The third we let go because that person was not trained as a firefighter or EMS.
Parker said that for insurance purposes — the department is required to carry life insurance even for volunteer firefighters — volunteers are required to work at least two shifts per month. He added that the department also faces insurance liability for volunteers who are untrained, in addition to the safety of those volunteers and the people they are trying to protect.
Ivins board member Jenny Johnson and Lance Anderson have both served as Ivins volunteer firefighters in the past. At the July 7 board meeting, the two expressed concern that the department was moving away from volunteers. Parker, who attended the meeting, sought and obtained assurances that the department would continue to include volunteers in its membership.
At Thursday’s council meeting, Anderson said he understood the need to bring in more full-time firefighters, but said volunteers were still needed.
“We need full-time people, but when you have a few more people to help you, it makes a difference,” Anderson said.
Parker said that ultimately his goal is to make the department better able to respond effectively to fires and emergencies with fully trained crews. Although he said volunteers would be part of it, his goal was to move the department from a volunteer-majority model to a full-time majority model.
“Full time is just more reliable. It’s as simple as that,” Parker said. “They will come to their shift.”
Mehr also took issue with what he said was a new directive from Parker that volunteer firefighters should not respond to fires and incidents directly from their homes or they will be fired.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Mehr said.
Parker confirmed the new policy and said the move was to ensure firefighters have the proper equipment and vehicles when responding. Ivins volunteer firefighters now have to go to the Center Street station first to get up to speed and use fire engines to respond. Parker added that lost minutes aren’t as detrimental as firefighters arriving without equipment and hitting the road with their vehicles when fire trucks with hoses and equipment need to enter.
“It’s just for safety,” Parker said. “We want them to be in a fire engine, not a personal vehicle.”
It’s also a reason Parker said any remaining or joining volunteers must be fully trained and that a coordinated response is key to effective firefighting.
“When they show up, they have to be coordinated and not go willy-nilly on fire,” Parker said. “They have to work with the incident commander.”
Ivins Mayor Chris Hart said that after an initial meeting with Santa Clara Mayor Rick Rosenberg and county officials to get Santa Clara’s budget and operational green light for Center Street reactivation , he heard no more from Santa Clara officials and the Santa Clara council. has yet to reactivate Center Street on its agenda.
Rosenberg had previously says St. George News fire department issues would await the joint meeting.
The two councils will meet at Santa Clara City Hall on Aug. 3 at 5 p.m.
“This will be an extremely important meeting,” Hart said. “We need to be candid about a number of things.”
Copyright St.George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.