A day before the end of the town’s fiscal year, five new firefighters were sworn in, and two current firefighters were promoted to Lieutenant. Newly appointed members Grant Ellerbe, Jon Yursha, Jeremy Feldman, Nick Fairbanks and Travis Parisi took the Oath of Office from Town Clerk Deb Gremo at the ceremony held at Town Hall. Newly promoted Lieutenants Scott Henderson and Adam LaFlash were sworn in and took on their new leadership positions on July 1st.
Lt. Henderson who has been a Firefighter/Paramedic with the department since 2003 has been assigned to the West St. station on Group 3. Lt. LaFlash, an Auburn Firefighter/Paramedic since 2009, will work in the West St. station on Group 4. Both members are excited to tackle their new assignments. Lt. Henderson will work in the EMS Division and serve as the department’s Advanced Life Support Coordinator responsible for quality assurance and quality improvement for the department. Lt. LaFlash has been assigned to the Media Relations Division and will serve as the department’s Public Relations Coordinator.
The five new firefighters joining the ranks on July 1st were chosen from an applicant pool of over 60. The positions were posted in August of 2016 and the candidates went through a rigorous hiring process that included a written exam, physical agility testing, 3 rounds of interviews, police background investigations and field investigations that included neighborhood visits and visiting their current places of employment. The entire hiring process took about 6 months before conditional offers of employment were made. The new members start work on July 3rd with a two-week orientation before beginning the Massachusetts Fire Fighting Academy on July 17th. Among the five, only Nick Fairbanks has ties with the AFRD since he has served as a call firefighter for several years.
Auburn Fire Rescue Chief Stephen M. Coleman Jr. said that he is very excited to have the new members join the ranks and to add the two new Lieutenant’s to his leadership team. Chief Coleman said this is the first time since 2011 that he has had a full command staff with no vacancies. “Gaps in the supervisory staff lead to many different projects being forced on a single supervisor and it affects the span of control during emergency operations. Having a Captain and Lieutenant on each group is necessary to manage Auburn’s two staffed fire stations.”
On July 1st, the department switched to a new schedule which will result in a 42-hour workweek. Since 24/7 staffing was introduced in 2003, firefighters have worked a 48-hour workweek, and most worked 3 out of 4 weekends. To get the new schedule, Local 4157 gave up cost of living increases for three years and made other concessions. Three of the five new firefighters were needed to make this schedule work while 2 backfilled the spots opened by promotion.
Auburn firefighters will work 24 hours on, 48 off, 24 on and then 4 days off. This schedule has become the norm for many New England fire departments including Worcester. Chief Coleman said, “This new schedule is a real morale boost for the staff. They’ve been trying to make this change for years.” He also said the department’s call volume could easily justify 10 firefighters per shift with a minimum of 8. Today, the maximum is 8.
The call volume in Auburn is very high with 1,843 responses so far this year. At this time in 2016, the department had 1,795 calls, so there has already been an increase of 48, an increase of 2.7%. Total calls for 2017 could easily top 3,600, and the call volume has increased 400% over the last 20 years.
We welcome the new and promoted members of the Auburn Fire Rescue Department, and we know you’ll be working hard. Be safe out there.