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Columbia Fire prepares to staff two new stations


With Fire Station 11 set to open later this month, the Columbia Fire Department already has eyes on Fire Station 10 opening next year.

Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Heidenreich said Fire Station 11 is fully staffed and prepared to open. Fire Station 10 will open sometime next year and require 12 new staff members. Heidenreich said the department is currently dealing with four vacancies from normal turnover, and the 12 new hires will be in addition to this.

"Any time we're adding staff versus just retaining or replacing current vacancies, it adds a little extra strain to the training system, if you will," Heidenreich said.

He said they intend to fill vacancies with the potential next recruiting class in October, and the current vacancies haven't had a major impact on day-to-day operations. Training typically takes 18 weeks.

While the department has seen recruitment numbers go down the last few years, Heidenreich said they intend to have Fire Station 10 fully staffed before it opens.

"We forecast those needs," Heidenreich said. "We know that we're going to be opening station 10, and so we will have those staff members trained and ready before the opening of the station to accommodate the increase in staffing needs."

The proposed city budget for fiscal year 24 currently includes more than $1.5 million to cover the cost of hiring 12 new employees to staff Fire Station 10. It also includes $68,864 to promote six firefighter positions at Fire Station 11.

President of the Columbia Professional Firefighters Union, Zack Privette, said he is also confident positions will be filled. He said as soon as the budget year rolls over, the department has worked with the city to be able to hire those 12 new staff members, and doesn't think it will be an issue.

"I believe there are dedicated people out there that are looking for a job in the fire department, and we've been able to hire the people that we need, we're just doing it from a smaller pool of individuals than we used to do," Privette said.

He said while shortages do put strains on firefighters including stress and overtime hours, they will always be able to respond. However, he said more can always be done.

"The Columbia Fire Department runs three person minimum trucks, and national standards are set at four," Privette said. "So, we can always be working toward meeting those standards."

According to data from the International Association of Firefighters, 4- and 5-person crews were able to complete firefighting and rescue tasks on scene 25% faster than 3-person crews.

Privette said to increase the amount of firefighters on trucks from three to four, it would cost an estimated $2 million more.

Heidenreich said as the city of Columbia grows, it can present challenge, and they realize the fire department is a piece of that puzzle. He said the department is excited for the grand opening of Station 11 on Sept. 26.

"We're excited to open (Station 11) and improve our response times and our service abilities in the southwest portion of the city," Heidenreich said.

Fire Station 11, which is located at 6909 Scott Blvd., is expected to cost more than $5 million by the time it is finished.

Fire Station 10, which will be located in El Chaparral Subdivision, will sit on two lots that include an empty two-story, 7,000-square-foot building. The estimated project cost is $3.7 million.

At the Columbia City Council meeting Tuesday, the fire department expressed the need for building renovations to the Fire Station 10 site. Renovations would cost an estimated $130,000 and include temporarily converting the upper level to office space and the lower level to a fire station while a permanent station is designed and constructed.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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