Pennsylvania Town Switches To Volunteers; Chief, Career Staff To Be Laid Off

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Tribune-Review

Uniontown has notified its entire paid fire department that all six members and the chief will be out of jobs by the end of the year, with volunteers to take their place.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the International Association of Firefighters Local 955, Councilman Gary Gearing notified firefighters the layoffs will be complete by Dec. 31, when the next contract expires.

City council voted Tuesday to notify the fire department of the intended layoffs. Mayor Ed Fike said the move is intended to save money.

Fike said although the fire department recently landed a $632,835 federal grant to bring the force back to its full complement of 11, council is uncertain it can legally accept the funds.

Fike said city officials have questions about how to replace those funds when the grant runs out.

Joshua Bloom, a Pittsburgh attorney who represents the firefighters, said today the union plans to fight the layoffs.

Copyright 2010 Tribune Review Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved
August 26, 2010

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Fike said although the fire department recently landed a $632,835 federal grant to bring the force back to its full complement of 11, council is uncertain it can legally accept the funds.

If this was a SAFER grant, then nope, they can't keep the funds. The dept should have never applied for it if the city had no intentions of honoring their end of the bargain.

Fike said city officials have questions about how to replace those funds when the grant runs out.

This may end up costing the community financially, especially if the funds for staffing are being utilized elsewhere. Since the IAFF represents the FF's and the IAFF pushed hard for SAFER, I can see the IAFF making a very good case about the funding if this was to be used for FF's and was used elsewhere.


City council voted Tuesday to notify the fire department of the intended layoffs. Mayor Ed Fike said the move is intended to save money.

Save money? No, really? I don't know the politics or community of Uniontown but, for the community's sake they better hope they get some volunteers dedicated to responding at all hours of the day. After all many depts add career staff because of response issues. Since they are also canning the chief, I hope they have something in the works for that too. Unfortunately I think the community may be paying for this decision in the long run.
Uniontown has notified its entire paid fire department that all six members and the chief will be out of jobs by the end of the year, with volunteers to take their place.
Isn't there some irony in the town name- UNIONtown.... :-)


Out of interest, is there a magical trigger point that specifies when a department goes to career vs. vol? (job stats, area coverage, etc) Or is it up to each town/dept to make that call?
Typically it is up to the individual community to make the call.
Uh, so they won't be offered to still be part of the department as volunteers? Assuming they don't attempt to join another paid department

Think about that, how would you feel if you just lost your job for no other reason than your employer wanting to save money. Your livlihood and income are gone and the same employer who just fired you now says you can come and work for free. Yeah, I'm guessing there would be some bitterness there.
If I was the Chief I'd ask where are these Volunteers that will be taking over the 24/7 FD come Jan1? I wonder if the people know they may be with out a Fire Dept come Jan 1?
I bet there Parks Dept. is still running with paid people.
Or worse, they probably will depend on MA agreements and have the other community provide their fire protection.

Like I said before, I think this decision will end up costing the city much more than the financial savings seen on paper.
Your right about the parks dept. 55, along with the dog catcher as well!!
according to the Census bureau in 2000 there were under 13,000 people living in Union Town, I know a lot of cities that have larger population and just run paid volunteers so I'm wondering if this is what they are looking at doing. If somebody could find the number fire calls for the past year that also makes a difference.
Who will be volunteering?
While all the paid guys go get new paid jobs elsewhere - doing something else.
Do they just think these 7 guys are now going to work for free?
Do they have any concept of how long it takes to build a trained volunteer crew?
They will be without a fire dept come Jan 1.

I'm just saying...
With a paid department that small it's a safe bet to assume that they already have a volunteer system in place within the department. There's a department near me that is run in this fashion, and they do well.
Good point - maybe there is a silver lining... and more to the story.
They have to be a combination dept with the low number of paid firefighters. Still I am on a combination and a all volunteer dept. The combination dept volunteers rely on the direction of the paid guys, where as the all volunteer dept can run right up there with the paid guys.
It is going to be very hard to convert over to a all volunteer dept regardless.

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