Savage Fire Department duty crew

Savage Fire Department announced temporary changes to the department's service model aimed at mitigating the risk COVID-19 presents to first responders. 

The Savage Fire Department is now staffed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, the department announced last weekend, to quicken response times and protect firefighters from spreading COVID-19.

The rotating crew of four, known as a duty crew, will be the first called to incidents. The other firefighters on the roster won’t be called unless needed.

Previously, all of the department’s 40 volunteer, paid-on-call firefighters were called to respond as-available to every call. All firefighters can bid for shifts on the duty crew.

Emily Gunderson, the city’s communications manager, said the new model limits the risk of transmitting a virus from firefighter to firefighter by lessening their exposure to each other.

“Our goal continues to be providing the highest quality customer service that we can, and we really feel this model is helping us do that,” she said, adding the duty crew also quickens average response times.

The crew at the fire station is also tasked with sanitizing the station, trucks and equipment every day.

Money from the department’s training budget and other daytime firefighting shifts was reallocated to temporarily sustain the duty crew operations, which will carry on until at least April 30.

The temporary change could give insight on how the department could adapt to the city’s growth moving forward. The City Council discussed the possibility of adding a duty crew last summer but didn’t reach any decisions before the city’s former fire chief resigned.

In November, the Council approved Savage Fire Chief Andrew Slama’s proposal to add two new command positions to the department.

Slama told officials the changes help prepare the department for the future after a wave of recent retirements and increasing demand for services.

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