HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) - The Holland Fire Department is struggling to fill several vital positions for public safety, on-call firefighters. Fire officials say they've been unable to find qualified applicants willing to accept the low pay and high responsibility.
Jon Cusack is the owner of a Holland electronics business and is also an on-call firefighter for the Holland Fire Department.
"That pager might go off at 3 o'clock in the morning or 3 o'clock in the afternoon," says Cusack.
Cusack says his day job often takes a back seat.
"You leave because you have a fire, now you have a whole production line that's halted, because you had to leave to go do that," says Cusack.
There are 25 on-call firefighters at the Holland Fire Department, but the number has been shrinking.
"It's a safety concern being able to put those adequate numbers on the scene," says Captain Christ Tinney with the Holland Fire Department.
In fact, Captain Tinney has five open on-call positions, but few people willing to accept $500 a month and high responsibility.
"They're working 40 hours a week, plus we're asking them to commit to two trainings a month, and fires that we can't schedule," says Captain Tinney.
"We're not just on call, we're on call all the time, and every day we have to make decisions based on when we might have to respond," says Cusack.
Fire officials say it used to be a requirement that on-call firefighters leave their jobs during a fire, but that's not always the case anymore, because many employers won't allow it.
"This system may need to evolve to meet the challenges of workers in our community," says Captain Tinney.
However, the company, Interior Specialties, allows one of its employees, an on-call firefighter, to leave when necessary.
"Sometimes it's not convenient for us, but its certainly worthwhile to have him on the front lines if tragedy strikes," says Rick Obbink, President of Interior Specialties.
Cusack says he has no plans to leave the fire department.
"It's definitely not about the money, it's about helping my community," says Cusack.
The Holland Fire Department says it normally receives at least 200 applicants for a full-time firefighter position, but only received about 20 for the on-call firefighter positions.