Wednesday, October 23, 2013
For the first time in the city’s 44 years, Soddy-Daisy now has paid staff members in its Fire Department. Six full-time employees and 12 part-time employees started their duties last week.
Hardie Stulce, a one-time fire chief who has been a volunteer firefighter in the city since 1970 and currently serves as city manager, said the staff members were needed to respond to fires during daytime hours when most of the 50 members of the volunteer staff are at work.
“We have hired a few employees to complement a very large volunteer force,” he said.
The new employees will be staffing the city’s stations from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Those were the times the least number of volunteers were available to respond,” said Stulce, adding that the Fire Department has never had a failed response. “The City Council made a proactive decision [to add the employees before a failed response occurred].”
Stulce said part of the reason the city of Soddy-Daisy incorporated in 1969 was to provide its citizens with fire protection. Before that time, he said, citizens were unable to purchase homeowners insurance because of the lack of fire protection.
Soddy-Daisy’s volunteer fire department started in 1970 with a handful of people out of one station and a fire engine on loan free of charge from the Post Volunteer Fire Department in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. Soddy-Daisy had less than 25 operable fire hydrants at the time, said Stulce.
Jerry Smith, one of two members of the original force who is still living, went out on the department’s first call around April 1970.
“Thank God it was a false call, because I didn’t know how to pump the engine,” said Smith, who served as fire chief from 1976-1980. “I learned that the very next day.”
He said he joined the department for the excitement and the adrenaline rush he gets on a call.
“We didn’t have much equipment at that time — no coats, no hats, no breathing apparatus,” he said.
By 1973, the city’s volunteers were manning three fire stations with three new diesel-powered pumpers.
“The [City] Council has always supported the Fire Department and historically continued to purchase necessary equipment,” said Stulce. “[Hiring the employees] is just another step in that continuous practice.”
Soddy-Daisy now has five Class A pumpers, three aerial ladder trucks, one rescue truck, two squads and two brush trucks, plus a boat and other ancillary equipment, he said. The city in cooperation with the Soddy-Daisy and Falling Water Utility District has brought the number of fire hydrants in Soddy-Daisy up to 380-plus.
Stulce said two of the full-time firefighters were transferred from the Police Department and will not be replaced on the force, so the city added just four full-time staff members. The total cost of salary and benefits for the new employees is around $380,000, he said. Chief Mike Guffey has served more than 20 years on the volunteer force, he noted.