Frequently Asked Questions
There are many terms used to describe fire departments these days, including career, paid-on-call, combination and volunteer. What is the correct way to describe the Shelburne Fire Department?
Technically we are an all-volunteer department that pays members a stipend depending on how many hours they spend at calls and training. Our fixed stipend budget is distributed quarterly after calculating an effective hourly rate by dividing one-fourth of the annual budget by the total number of hours put in by all the members that quarter. Because the number of hours in a quarter varies by how busy we are, the effective hourly rate can vary quite a bit. On average, Shelburne’s firefighters receive stipend payments of $500-750 per person per year for their service.
In the old days, there used to be a huge siren in the top of the fire station to alert members that there was a call. How are department members notified today?
Everyone in the Department is issued a memory pager. We are dispatched out of the Shelburne Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). The dispatcher at the PSAP sends alert tones to our pagers in the event of an emergency. They have the ability to tone out the entire Department, or to just set off the pagers of the six fire officers if all they need is an officer.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Shelburne Fire Department?
Our biggest challenge, as it is for volunteer departments in many locations, is the availability of personnel during the daytime on weekdays. Years ago people worked on farms or worked in towns and villages near to their homes. Today, that is less common and many people don’t have the latitude to leave their jobs to respond to emergencies.
How does one join the Shelburne Fire Department?
We have a multi-step process that is pretty simple. Application information and instructions are available on the “Join” page of this website. After applying, an applicant undergoes a simple interview (which is also an opportunity for the applicant to ask questions). At the first monthly Department meeting after the interview, the applicant is presented to the Department and a one-month waiting period begins. During that period applicants are welcome to attend training and begin to meet people. At the next monthly meeting an applicant’s application if voted on and, if approved, the applicant’s probationary period begins. Probation is typically six months long, but can differ. At the end of the probationary period another vote is taken for a status change to full membership.
How often does the Shelburne Fire Department buy new equipment and why?
For many, many years the Department has relied on a 20-year replacement cycle for fire apparatus. With the purchase of Engine 1 in 2010, an effort is being made to push the replacement cycle to at least 25 years. The oldest vehicles we currently have are Squad 4 (1991) and Tanker 5 (1995). We input to the Town of Shelburne’s five-year capital planning forecast and are not forecasting the replacement of either of these vehicles within the current five-year window.
How does the Department decide what apparatus is needed and how it should be equipped?
The first step is a strategic review of the equipment being replaced – the equipment and capabilities of the piece being retired are reviewed as the starting point. In some cases equipment or capabilities that were rarely used are dropped and frequently new capabilities are added. In the case of particularly expensive or specialized capabilities, we also consider the equipment mix within neighboring departments and consider whether duplication is inevitable and necessary, or can be avoided. The Department then prepares a detailed specification for the new piece of apparatus and goes out to bid if granted the authority at Town Meeting. Because the Fire Department is a department of Town government, apparatus is actually purchased by the Town using the Town’s bonding authority.
I see from the Apparatus pages that the Department has two boats - Marine 1 and Marine 4. What happened to Marine 2 and Marine 3?
Good question, Lake Champlain and the other waterways around us are the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard and we only provide emergency services on the water when we are directed or requested to do so by the Coast Guard. The Charlotte Fire Department, immediately south of us, also has two boats in their Department. To avoid confusion on the radio and with the Coast Guard, our boats are identified as Shelburne Marine 1 and Shelburne Marine 4. The Charlotte Fire Department boats are identified as Charlotte Marine 2 and Charlotte Marine 3. Although it might not seem like it, this is less confusing than having Shelburne Marine 1, Charlotte Marine 1, Shelburne Marine 2 and Charlotte Marine 2.
Does the Shelburne Fire Department charge for emergency responses?
Not generally. The Shelburne Fire Department does not charge our residents for the services we provide, although there are some circumstances under which charges are allowed. There are also occasions when equipment has been damaged during an incident and we have filed an insurance claim to fund the replacement item(s). Those claims will generally be filed against the property owner’s insurance policy.
Calling the Fire Department
I‘m embarrassed to call the Fire Department. My smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector is beeping, but I don’t want to disturb everyone just to find out that I am worrying about nothing! What should I do?
Don’t hesitate – call 911! It has always amazed us how many people insist on apologizing to us for having called. We have the equipment necessary to determine whether carbon monoxide is present in your home and we have the training, skill and expertise to help you if it is. We are here to help you – it’s why we volunteer. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and poisonous and, unfortunately, detectors are not infallible. Call, let us check out the situation, and give you piece of mind.
We have an event coming up and we think it would be cool to have the Fire Department or some firefighters participate. Is this possible?
Probably – contact us and let us know what you would like to do. We are happy to help with children’s birthday parties, town events and other celebrations on a non-interference basis. One ground rule is that we will not participate in any non-charity event that financially benefits any individual, group of individuals or commercial entity (even if, in our opinion, it’s presented as a public service event).