FAIRFIELD TWP., Ohio – A Fairfield Township fire station sat unmanned for three hours on Saturday so its staff could attend the wedding of a fellow firefighter.
"Under these circumstances there was nothing I could do to force people to come to work,” said Fairfield Fire Chief Tim Thomas of the mostly volunteer fire department that serves a community of about 20,000 people.
Instead, the district’s main firehouse, Station 211 on Morris Road, was the only station opened between 6 and 9 p.m.
Thomas said the station closure coincided with the wedding, but did not directly cause it. Instead, he state, the temporary closure reflected a bigger issue with staffing.
Volunteers can only work up to 30 hours a week, and many of them have other jobs and commitments as well, Thomas said. Typically, the fire district likes to have 12 people on staff.
"I mean I always want to have the maximum available staffing but the realism is we're not going to have 12 people on duty no matter how hard we try,” Thomas said.
Mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire departments were in affect to cover for Saturday’s shortfall in staffing. Thomas said with that he felt Fairfield Township was adequately covered in case of an emergency.
Additionally, no calls came in for the area Station 212 covers during the three hours it was unmanned.
When Rodney Lockaby, who lives near the station with his 75-year-old mother, heard of its temporary closure, he said he was disappointed.
"Had something happened to her and I wanted them to come that night because she was in a bad way, how long would it have took them to get here?” Lockaby asked.