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Lake Country Fire aims to transition away from part-time firefighters in 4 year staffing plan

Fire officials say investing in more full-time employees will aid in their staffing crisis.
Posted at 10:03 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 23:25:02-05

WALES, Wis. — The need for more staffing is affecting fire departments across the state. Thursday night, the Lake Country Fire and Rescue squad held a meeting to unveil their plan to get more people on the job.

Lake Country Fire services seven communities in Waukesha County’s Lake Country area, covering around 28,000 residents. Lake Country Fire Chief Matt Fennig says the number of job openings Southeastern Wisconsin is facing in 2023 is record-breaking.

“In 2023 we are aware of over 100 full-time openings,” said Fennig.

A decade ago that number would be between 10 to 20 openings. That skyrocketing need for more people on the job is raising fire response times by 30% and forcing the department to sit down and brainstorm solutions.

Lake Country has developed a four-year plan that transitions away from utilizing paid on-call and part-time individuals as part of their daily schedule.

The current staffing model has 12 daily positions with half of those consisting of part-time or on-call workers. The new plan aims to make all 12 of those positions full-time over the course of four years.

“We are not adding to the daily schedule in terms of headcount, in terms of daily roster,” said Fennig. “We are simply converting, over the course of four years, from part-time to full-time.”

But that transition means a raise in tax levies for many of the Waukesha County communities' Lake Country Fire services. Elected officials from each of the seven communities were present and weighed in on the next steps for funding.

Both the City and Town of Delafield already have meetings set up to discuss a referendum to raise those levies. The results of those will affect the final shape of the plan.

Similar referenda were suggested in areas covered by Waukesha County’s Western Lakes Fire Department. Voters in five of seven of those communities voted no.

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