Local fire departments to try new schedule

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Next year Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District firefighters will be trying out a new 48/96 work schedule. Of the 12 area fire districts, eight have already moved to the schedule that allows firefighters to have 48 hours on shift and 96 hours off shift.

At the Oct. 24 district board of directors meeting, Battalion Chief Bryan Jack said the department had discussed switching to the new schedule a while back but decided to wait until the West Metro Fire Protection District in Denver studied the results of the switch it made a few years ago. Jack was also waiting for the results of a sleep study being conducted by St. Vincent Hospital.

“West Metro said there weren't any negative outcomes,” he said. “They saw a drop in sick-pay use but they only tracked that for a year. I wish it had been longer.”

The sleep study showed that people lose more sleep before their shifts start than they do during the shift, he added. With results in hand, the department will be conducting a 12-month trial period, starting in January, before deciding whether to make the change permanent.

Jake Shirk, the district's newest board member, asked why the department was bringing this item to the board since it is purely an administrative decision. Jack replied that the schedule change was on the agenda as information but that in the next couple of meetings the board would have to approve several policy changes related to the switch.

Jack added that the switch would help firefighters save fuel costs because they wouldn't be driving as often and it will also be easier to schedule night training exercises and joint exercises with other departments that are using the same schedule.

Soon the department will have a new firefighter, Sparky the Fire Dog. District office manager Jennifer Martin has received a $1,000 grant from Monument Hill Kiwanis toward the purchase of a Sparky costume. She has also received a donation of $250, which leaves $280 still to raise before she can order the suit. Martin has volunteered to wear the suit at local events.

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