Delta Township Fire Department faces ongoing staff shortage

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Man standing by firetruck

Vivian Barrett

Delta firefighter paramedics leave in response to a call.

A nation-wide shortage of firefighter paramedics is hampering the Delta Township Fire Department, leaving it eight people short. Several times, two of the township’s three fire stations have closed due to staffing issues.

Delta has been struggling with the shortage since 2019. EMS/Training Capt. Brian Hatfield said the ongoing issue is a lack of people interested in the occupation. 

“The general amount of people going into this profession overall is much lower than it has been in the past,” Hatfield said. “I used to teach at Lansing Community College, years and years ago, and there would be 40 people going into the paramedic program, and now you’re lucky if there’s 14 or 15.”

Assistant Fire Chief John Kahler said the increased workload that falls on the remaining staff has been hard to handle. There is no time for rest or breaks, he said. 

“It’s just a constant and ongoing staffing shortage causing our people to not only work their own shifts but work overtime to fill shifts and back-fill and keep units in service,” Kahler said. “When it’s long term like it has been, it starts wearing down your crews. The stress of the job is compounded.”

Fire fighter uniforms

Vivian Barrett

Firefighter paramedic gear closet is left with empty spots. Many paramedics have taken multiple uniforms from the extras left by the staff shortage.

Because of the decrease in firefighter paramedics applying, Fire Chief Gregg Ginebaugh introduced a new program to hire firefighter EMTs and send them to paramedic school. EMTs will be hired at a starter level pay but will be bumped up to paramedic pay grade once they get their license, Ginebaugh said. He said the department is also paying double time to motivate firefighters to come back.

“They’re burning out,” Ginebaugh said. “They’re just running so many calls and it’s its back-to-back with no rest. This is just our way to pay them a little more, grow some new people that we bring in and hopefully we can overcome the shortage that we’re experiencing.”

Kahler said he hopes the new firefighter EMT program will begin to return staff to the normal level. The department is already receiving positive responses to their new job postings and has begun interviews, he said.

“If we can hire in the EMTs, find the right people that are motivated and want to come in, get to work in our department, help us with our staff shortage and at the same time we’ll send them to paramedic school,” he said. “At the end of a three-year period, hopefully we’ll fill our holes with homegrown paramedics.”

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