Full-time firefighter discharged for debilitating injuries

FLINT TWP. — The Township Board of Trustees voted Monday night to end the employment of a full-time firefighter of 13 years because he can no longer perform his duties due to injuries.

There was no discussion before the board unanimously approved the termination 4-0. Three trustees were absent — Barb Vert, Belenda Parker and George Menoutes.

The terminated firefighter was not named due to personnel privacy issues.

Supervisor Karyn Miller said after the meeting the firefighter had been off-duty for about one year, unable to work due to injuries and has run out of paid time off and family medical leave benefits.

He was one of two full-time firefighters who have been off work for more than a year due to injuries, Miller said. The other one is working out retirement arrangements, she said.

Fire Chef John Ringwelski said the terminated firefighter had an excellent record of service and had received heroism awards.

He also could not say much more due to employee privacy requirements.

The termination request had previously been up for consideration on the March 18 board agenda but was deleted and moved to this week’s agenda.

The termination reduces the size of the township’s full-time fire staff to 11 including Ringwelski and Assistant Fire Chief Michael Burkley.

Ringwelski said he is advocating replacing the terminated firefighter but encumbered by budget tightening restraints. As recently as five years ago, the township had as many as 14 full-time firefighters.

Most of the township’s firefighters now serve on an on-call volunteer basis, not full-time.

Beefing up its on-call staff size has been an ongoing effort in recent years, as volunteers dwindle. Applications currently are being accepted for new on-call recruits. Forms can be obtained online on the township’s website at www.flinttownship.org or at the main fire station.

The Flint Township fire department is among a dwindling number of departments still employing full-time staff. In a national trend, on-call firefighters outnumber full-timers more than two to one.

Of 1,100,450 firefighters in the United States in 2011. 344,050 (31 percent) were career and 756,400 (69 percent) were volunteer, according to a profile report issued in October 2012 and published on the website of the National Fire Protection Association.

The report also said of an estimated 30,145 fire departments in the U.S., 2,550 are staffed only by career firefighters, 1,865 by mostly career, 5,530 by mostly volunteer and 20,200 by only volunteers.

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