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Spanish Fork expands from volunteer to full-time fire crew due to growth

By Carlene Coombs - | May 24, 2024

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

The exterior of the Spanish Fork Fire & EMS department, pictured Monday, May 20, 2024.

Spanish Fork will be expanding its fire and emergency medical services department, moving from a volunteer fire crew to a full-time and part-time crew.

Currently, the city employs one full-time and one part-time ambulance crew, with firefighters working on a volunteer basis with a paid stipend per call.

Now, the part-time ambulance will transition to full-time and the city is hiring a new full-time fire crew. Current volunteer firefighters will become part-time employees with an hourly wage.

Eddie Hales, Spanish Fork Fire & EMS chief, said that the growth in the city has necessitated expanding the department so crews can respond to calls quickly.

“As we’ve continued to grow, the need for more quick response times (has risen), and the infrastructure and the routes to and from fire stations with traffic was becoming an issue to get trucks out faster, Hales said. “And so the need has pushed us to transition from volunteer to full time.”

Recent U.S. census population estimates show Spanish Fork has continued to grow, with the city adding an estimated 1,415 residents in 2023, for a total of 45,557. In 2010, Spanish Fork had about 34,700 residents.

Hales said Spanish Fork Fire & EMS has been volunteer-based since it was founded in 1908. In total, the city is hiring about 15 new crew members, including fire captains, engineers, firefighters and paramedics.

Along with growth, more job opportunities out of the city have made it difficult for volunteer staff who work elsewhere to respond to incidents quickly.

“This will allow us to get the minimum firefighters on scene around the clock and have a daytime staff that’s consistent and there to respond and make that daytime response more robust,” he said. Hales added that they want to have a response time of two minutes once a call comes in.

The volunteer firefighters will be moved to part-time employees and be available as a secondary response for the full-time crew.

“They (the part-time fire crew) will still respond from their homes to the firehouse when they’re called upon,” Hales said. This allows for the full-time firefighters to get a truck out and respond within the needed two minutes, and then part-time crew members can come in with a second truck to assist.

“As we have more growth and people’s time becomes more valuable, paying them for their time away from their families and their other job is a necessity to continue to provide high-level services in Spanish Fork,” he said.

Hales said the current full-time ambulance was transitioned from a part-time crew in January, and now the second ambulance also will move to full time as they adjust the fire crew.

The need for more paramedics and EMS crew members became clear when the city welcomed a new hospital in 2021, Hales said, which factored into the growth the EMS crew has already had.

Hales said the full-time firefighter hires will most likely need to come to the department, have already been trained and have completed their certifications so they are ready to start the job. For part-time positions, he added, the department can provide training as needed.

Hales said the “volunteer spirit” is strong in Spanish Fork and the change has nothing to do with a lack of individuals willing to volunteer their time to serve in the fire department.

“We very much respect our volunteers for everything that they’ve done here in Spanish Fork, for the commitment that they have given, the service they provided and the foundation that they’ve laid for the fire and EMS department to move to this next step to continue to provide a high level of service to our community,” he said.


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