Orlreans Fire Chief Concerned About Staffing Issues

Orleans Fire Chief Anthony Pike

ORLEANS – The Orleans Fire Chief recently presented a review of issues facing the department to selectmen, which include a lack of staff, affordable housing, and facility space.

Chief Anthony Pike said the department is having trouble filling a paramedic position and a lack of affordable housing is a major reason.

“Our neighbors are in the same boat,” Pike said. “And as president of the Barnstable County Fire Chiefs I deal with this every month – from Provincetown to Bourne it is the same thing.”

Pike says the department is hindered by the tight residency requirements as staff are required to be at the station in 15 minutes after a callback.

He suggested a possible expansion of the residency radius.

Two current call firefighters are in a paramedic program.

“I’d like to hire one of them as a provisional with the idea that they can get trained,” Pike said.

Pike said the last time the department had to send any firefighters to paramedic school was in 1993.

“I hate to be doom and gloom every time I stand at the podium but this is frightening when you don’t have enough providers,” he said.

“We need more staff and we need to meet the needs of the public, and this hiring thing is really throwing us for a loop.”

Pike also said the department only has three people on duty in the winter. When an ambulance goes out, people need to come in from home.

“Getting that second ambulance to your home within six to eight minutes would be a virtual impossibility,” Pike said. “It’s getting to the point where it is getting really difficult and relatively dangerous for staff members and for the taxpayers and visitors.”

Immediate concerns are the lack of emergency personnel at beaches during the shoulder season.

September and October remains peak season for great white shark activity off the coast of Cape Cod.

“My major concern is those nice days in September and October on the weekends when local people can go down to the beach and enjoy a nice sunny day without crowds,” Pike said.

The town has deployed two more emergency beach boxes.

“I think that is great, but I had asked for some kind of protection measures for those nice days,” Pike said.

Pike said he is incredibly nervous at the lack of providers at the beaches.

“There will be one beach ranger for both beaches and the front beach and I don’t think that is the safest environment we can provide,” he said.

Stationing EMTs at Nauset Beach on weekends in the fall is not possible due to the department’s current overtime budget.

Permission would be needed from the finance committee to use reserve funds to cover the costs of more hours.

Pike said the crumbling of the department’s infrastructure is demoralizing.

“It is difficult to maintain a morale in a very, very emotional and difficult business and really wears on us every day,” he said.

Pike said the department has been out of space for ten years.

“I know there is no easy fix and no quick fix,” he said.

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