Milton Fire Department faces volunteer firefighter shortage

MILTON, Wis.– Milton Fire Department is in the midst of a “staffing crisis,” due to a lack of volunteer firefighters, according to Chief Ernest Rhodes.

While Rhodes is unsure of the reason behind the shortage, he said it’s been difficult to have more than one or two people respond to calls.

“Fires and medical emergencies takes staff. You’ve got to be able to put the people on the trucks and get them there as soon as possible,” Rhodes said.

Since December, there have been times when no one was able to respond to calls in Milton, and Janesville staff needed to respond, according to Rhodes, which significantly lengthens the response time.

“It’s not their fault. (Volunteers are) just not there anymore,” said Rhodes.

The department’s budget would have to increase by about $800,000 to have a completely staffed station, according to Rhodes. Without those funds, the chief said it’s time to consider unifying Milton and Janesville fire departments.

“We have a lot of redundancy in effort and duplication. How can we merge the two organizations to become one really strong effective firefighting force?” Rhodes said.

To cope with the lack of volunteer firefighters in the meantime, the department hired one full-time and three on-premise firefighters.

“We’re essentially hiring full-time career firefighters (and) paramedics to come in on their off days to cover the equipment and the station,” Rhodes said.

The department has already seen improvement with the addition staff, but Rhodes said this is not a sustainable solution and will need to be revisited.