Staffing concerns for emergency responders on the Iron Range

By KBJR News 1

November 19, 2013 Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 7:12 PM CDT

Virginia, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Staffing issues for emergency responders are causing serious concerns on the Iron Range.

The mayor of Virginia and several city councilors met Tuesday with emergency personnel to discuss a shortage of first responders in the Virginia fire department.

"Our scheduled work week is 56 hours. I've probably been doing an average of about 40 hours overtime a pay period," said Patrick Peterson, a fire equiptment operator and paramedic at the Virginia Fire Department.

Fire chief Dan L'allier says to fix this problem they need two additional firefighters/paramedics on every shift, to be fully staffed to respond to emergencies.

"The personnel work 24 hour shifts, they get called back in numerous times on their days off... and it's stressful," said Chief L'allier.

...stressful on the firefighters and on their families.

"I'm missing out on my kids growing up. You know, they're planning on Dad being home, they want Dad to be home, they know he's off that day, then all of a sudden Dad's working and they find that hard to cope with," said Peterson.

Fire officials say they're concerned about the potential for personnel burnout.

"They're not sharp anymore after they work 36 hours in a row," said Mayor Louis Russo, the mayor of Virginia.

And firefighters across the nation are feeling the same burden.

The shortage of emergency responders isn't only an issue in cities on the Iron Range like Hibbing and Virginia, but the problem is ongoing nation-wide.

But regardless of the staffing troubles... the responders say saving lives is their accepted call to duty.

"It's helping your neighbors. It's what we do. They call, we go there and we help. That's what we do," said Chief L'allier.

A discussion that is far from over...

A meeting is scheduled for December 3rd to continue the discussion.

Elsa Robins