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New Hires Cut Costs in Fire Department Overtime

The Cranford Fire Department examined its overtime policies and procedures during the Township Committee workshop meeting on Monday.

Chief Leonard Dolan and Captain H. William Merwede of the Cranford Fire Department. Credit: Nicole Bitette
Chief Leonard Dolan and Captain H. William Merwede of the Cranford Fire Department. Credit: Nicole Bitette

The hiring of five daytime firefighters in the Cranford Fire Department has cut costs in overtime, according to Fire Chief Leonard Dolan.

Since August, the department added on five probationary firefighters to work daytime shifts, but shortly after their hire, one firefighter retired and three others were out on medical leave.

Now, the probationary firefighters are covering the shifts of those on leave or retired instead of using overtime in the department, according to Dolan.

As of Dec. 4, the Fire Department has spent $214,510.57 on overtime. The current policy of CFD is to have five scheduled firefighters for each shift. The state requires a “two in, two out” policy, which the department abides to. The fifth firefighter serves as the official on scene and does not count as the “two in, two out,” which is why the department requires a minimum of five people on duty.

Although the department spent $214,510.57, they are currently only $5,400 over budget due to reimbursement provided for calls the department made to the Garden State Parkway.

Commissioner Kevin Campbell questioned when the department decides to call in additional personnel to a shift.

Dolan explained that if EMS personnel are out on a call and have to transport someone to the hospital, back-up EMS personnel would be called in because the hospital trip could take an hour to an hour and a half.

For fires, the firefighters will arrive on scene and determine the seriousness of the incident before decided if additional personnel will be needed incase another call is received.

In 2012, the department’s overtime budget was allotted at $140,000, but they spent $252,714. Dolan added that a good portion of that is EMS related.

“You can really strain your resources very quickly when providing medical service,” he explained.

He added that of the 2,400 to 2,800 calls the department receives, 1,200 of them are EMS calls.

Of the $252,714, Dolan estimated that roughly $20,000 to $23,000 of overtime pay was storm related.

According to Dolan, the biggest issue the department has had over the years is the number of extended sick leaves. This year, the three temporary disabilities are work related, but in the past they were not. He added that the department also receives money back for firefighters who are receiving workman’s compensation due to job-related injures.

Mayor Tom Hannen asked Dolan and Captain Merwede what they believe would assist the department with staffing and cutting overtime costs in the future.

Both agreed that returning to four seven man platoon instead of five would be their ultimate goal. Currently, Cranford has four six man platoons and one seven, but most months of the year they are just meeting the minimum. 

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