Lakeville Select Board approves increase in fire department staffing

Dec 15, 2023

LAKEVILLE — Lakeville Fire Chief Michael O’Brien’s wish came true when the Lakeville Select Board voted to approve his proposal for four additional firefighters to be hired at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 11.

The Select Board voted unanimously to allocate $172,708 in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the Lakeville Fire Department which will allow it to add a “fourth position to each shift.” This is one-time funding for fiscal year 2024.

The Select Board also authorized O’Brien to apply for a Staffing and Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) grant to assist the Lakeville Fire Department with funding for staffing.

According to O’Brien, the volume of calls into the Lakeville Fire Department has increased by an average of 9% each year for the past decade.

The fire department is subject to “state requirements for EMS and fire response” and is obligated to respond to every call it receives, O’Brien explained. But as the call volume increased, a lack of staffing has left the department “overburdened,” he added.

“Overtasked [and] overcommitted Lakeville responders are showing the typical indicators of an untenable situation,” said O’Brien. “The [Lakeville Fire] Department’s current staffing complement lacks the capacity to handle current call volume and response requirements.”

According to O’Brien, his department does not have the personnel to staff two ambulances simultaneously.

The addition of four positions within the fire department would cost an estimated $172,708 in 2024 and $348,651 in 2025, according to data provided by the town of Lakeville.

“Lakeville ranked 35th of the 41 communities reviewed for firefighter staffing levels” in Massachusetts municipalities with populations between 8,000 and 14,000 people, said O’Brien.

“The health and wellness of our most engaged and dedicated employees will benefit greatly from [the four new full time firefighters],” said O’Brien. “These employees will be more likely to rest and recover during off-duty time, indirectly providing a more productive and more effective on-duty staff.”

It is unclear if the Lakeville Fire Department has hired any new fire fighters as of Friday, Dec. 15. O’Brien has not yet responded to a request for comment.