The Town of Waterford is making firefighters in town decide whether they want to work part-time and get paid or fight fires as a volunteer.
Currently the town has overlap between part-time and volunteer firefighters.
First Selectman Dan Steward said the issue was raised after a local part-time firefighter requested to be paid for decades of volunteer service, citing a potential violation of an old federal labor law.
In response, Waterford’s Director of Fire Services Bruce Miller sent out a letter to 53 firefighters saying “In electing to serve as a paid, part-time member of the fire services, you will not be eligible to volunteer such services.
“That’s a significant decision to give up that kind of money but it’s based on my love of the service and the betterment of the community,” said Cohanzie Fire Co. Chief Todd Branche.
Branche is the volunteer chief at one of Waterford’s five private fire houses in town, where firefighters volunteer their services.
Waterford does not have its own town fire department but it does have nine full-time firefighters and part-time firefighters, according to Steward.
The town also supplies apparatus, training and equipment to the fire houses, he added.
Branche also works part-time for the town and said last year he made just over $30,000 doing that. But he is choosing to remain a volunteer because Branche said he’s committed to keeping the community safe.
“The earlier in the incident you are, the more significant impact you can make,” Branche said.
Steward said public safety remains the top concern for the town.
Three volunteer officers responded to Miller’s letter, so far, he said, and confirmed those three officers made the decision to continue as paid part-time employees for the town.