Ida’s fire department launches shift week to handle calls
Despite his two jobs, Ida Township firefighter Drew Weiler knows the importance of being available when a fire call or emergency call arrives.
That’s why he stepped in when the township needed firefighters last week to staff the fire station during daylight hours, when many firefighters are working and not available to respond.
“I love being there, the atmosphere and taking calls,” said the Ida resident, 29, after working a day shift. “I’ve always liked it and public safety is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
He was one of five firefighters who signed up to work a day shift at the station and to respond to emergencies between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Other firefighters from other departments are also helping this month to help kick-start the effort.
âThe day is always a struggle for us when the tones are ringing,â said Weiler, a Hillsdale County Sheriff‘s Assistant. âOther guys have lives, families and jobs and can’t always get in. “
The only calls he and Mike Komorowski of the Bedford Fire Department had during their shift were for a medical rescue and someone in need of assistance getting to his home. Both were busy checking equipment, hoses, and air cylinders to make sure they were ready to go when needed.
A 2011 graduate of Ida High School, Weiler said he would work even without pay if necessary.
Ida Fire Chief Kirt Horn said the new day shift aims to provide enough staff for the service to respond to any emergency.
“It’s just us right now,” said Horn, a 26-year-old with the department, after working day one with Ida’s Captain Carl Arnold and Dundee’s Rob Justice. âI am happy that we have a (township) council that is proactive, supports us and is ready to listen to the needs of the community. Fire services are changing faster than we can keep up.
In the past, like other departments in Monroe County, Ida sometimes had only one or two people available to respond to a fire call or rescue on a weekday. After exploring the plan for the past two years, the department began staffing the station with two people last week to ensure there would be enough firefighters on site to deal with an emergency. The municipality pays firefighters a fixed fee per shift.
âWe are all struggling in today’s environment,â said Horn, 49. âDaytime issues are real for most departments. The (lack of help) pushes you hard. We all work during the day and have a life outside of it. We just don’t have the volunteers we had. So we started to equip the station with two people to improve our response times during the day. We are trying to find a way to make it work. This ensures that someone will be available to make the calls. We haven’t had this for the past two years.
The chief was proud of how Ida’s small community and the department worked together to become big without raising new taxes.
âIt’s a struggle to find funding (for a small town), I know,â Horn said. “You just need to do some homework.”
Ida has 24 paid duty firefighters in its workforce. He also enlisted firefighters from other departments in Bedford, Dundee, Summerfield and Ann Arbor Township to cover shifts, Horn said.
Ida handled nearly 600 calls in 2021, up about 120 from the previous year. About 60% of those calls were made during the day, he said. The department covers an area of ââapproximately 8,000 people.
âRemember, we also take care of half of Raisinville Township (south of the Raisin River),â said the Chief. âThat’s why having these guys really helps us. “
The chef, who also works full-time as a heating and cooling technician at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, is the only paid member of the department.
He said the department and township had collaborated on how to pay firefighters for station staff without seeking additional funding.
âWe figured out how to make it work,â Horn said.
The first week produced at least one call per day, all of which were medical runs, he said.
âIt turned out as we expected,â he said. “Maybe we’ve started something that can help other departments struggling with the same.”
This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: Ida’s fire department launches shift week to handle calls