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Membership numbers continue to climb

Linda Harris EXPANDING — After nearly five months in operation, Steubenville Fire Department’s new ambulance service has already generated enough money to cover salaries and benefits for three new hires.

STEUBENVILLE — The city’s fire department continues to boost its numbers, with plans to swear in three more firefighters Feb. 23.

With the new hires, Chief Carlo Capaldi said the department will have a total of 37 firefighters, “Twelve per turn plus me.” He said that will make scheduling much easier now that the department is also tasked with staffing the city’s new ambulance service.

In accordance with the department’s new policy, the new hires will all have EMT or paramedic certifications, in addition to their firefighting background.

“Scheduling is pretty tight,” Capaldi said. “Currently, each turn has four people that can rotate on the ambulance, but that’s before vacations or other days off.”

The department launched the new ambulance service in October. Initially, city officials had planned to do a lease-purchase arrangement but opted instead to use CARES Act funding to purchase three brand-new vehicles outright – two to run on a daily basis, with the third held in reserve as a backup for times when one of the others is out-of-service.

Capaldi said during the past four months they’ve managed to keep one ambulance on the road while still maintaining fire protection despite being short-handed, but he concedes working around vacations and sick days has been tricky. While the new hires will definitely make scheduling easier in the short term, he said it won’t be enough for them to run the second ambulance.

City council has been reluctant to commit to expanding the Table of Organization until it gets a better handle on how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is going to impact the city’s revenues in 2021, and also was rebuffed on efforts to secure federal Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant money to cover the cost of hiring as many as 10 people. Though city officials plan to reapply for the SAFER grant, there’s no guarantee it will be funded.

Capaldi said the ambulance service has generated enough revenue for now to cover salary and benefits for the new hires.

“These three will be the first guys funded through the EMS revenue,” Capaldi said. “Hopefully, three- to six- more guys will be funded from that revenue. Right now, I’m confident (the revenue) is enough to fund the three positions. As we get further along, we will see how it comes in.”

Capaldi said most of his firefighters already had EMT or paramedic training, even before it became mandatory for newly hired employees.

“These three guys will help us have a larger rotation on the first ambulance and help cut overtime for the department as a whole,” Capaldi said. “(But) we’ll need at least three more (after that) to get the second ambulance up and running.”

He said the upcoming swearing-in “is very important because it will give us more EMS and fire-qualified people that can take turns on the ambulance and give some of the guys a break.”

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