The Official Minute: MFD Chief discusses department operations
By Joshua R. Klug
Merrill Fire Chief
The Merrill Fire Department is a full-time emergency services provider, meaning a minimum number of firefighter/paramedics are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. We are an all-hazards response agency, so no matter what the 9-1-1 call is for, we will respond. We are able to handle any type of call because our personnel are cross-trained as firefighters and paramedics. This means they can respond to your emergency in a fire truck or ambulance or both depending on what is needed. 90% of our 1,900 calls for service are ambulance calls. The fire department provides these services with 23 full-time members which are broken down into 7 members on each of the 3 crews. Each crew works 48 hours and then is off 96 hours. The current minimum daily staffing level is 5 personnel which had been 6 prior to 2008. The remaining 2 full-time members are the fire chief and administrative battalion chief.
Some have wondered how Merrill can support a full-time fire/EMS department. The Merrill Fire Department has a unique funding structure. While the overall gross budget is approximately $2.5 million dollars, it does not all rest solely with city taxpayers. It is primarily comprised of 3 main funding sources. The first revenue source is the ongoing ambulance contract with Lincoln County. This contract allocates over $1 million dollars for ambulance service in the southern two-thirds of the county, or 540 square miles. Another $215,000 is brought in through the rural fire protection contract with the Towns of Merrill, Scott, and Rock Falls. This leaves a balance of around $1.3 million for the cost of emergency services in the city. By pooling all of these financial resources together, it continues to protect the Merrill area with emergency services that they have come to know and expect for over a century. Any cuts to these funding sources would mean changes to the services that we currently provide.
Some have suggested volunteers to provide emergency services. While we are fortunate to have some great neighboring departments, it is unrealistic to handle our current call volume with anything less than the staffing we currently have. Additionally, the shortage of firefighter/paramedics is a real issue. It has become increasingly harder to find qualified candidates for our jobs. We should be looking at investing more into our protective services. Future investments in staffing would allow for existing services to be provided more efficiently, effectively, and safely. These potential improvements would enhance the Merrill community even more. How many organizations, non-profits, or volunteer events have you seen a Merrill firefighter be involved with? The reality is that our members are active and engaged in our community. We want our city to grow and enhance the quality of life in Merrill. We plan to continue serving our community on-duty and off-duty.
We didn’t cover every aspect or detail of our department or job, but we hope this overview provides some facts of our department. Whenever you have a question, concern, or feedback for our department, we would like to hear from you. Call the non-emergency number at the fire station (715) 536-2233 or email me at Josh.Klug@ci.merrill.wi.us or find us at our Facebook page facebook.com/MerrillFire/