Eldon Fire Chief Says Department is Understaffed

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ELDON, Mo. - A dispatcher told KOMU 8 News there was only one firefighter on duty at the Eldon Fire Department Tuesday night. This comes after a concerned citizen and Eldon Fire Chief Randy Vernon contacted KOMU 8 News to alert us to possible conflict at Tuesday's Eldon Board of Aldermen meeting.

Vernon said the fire department is currently understaffed with four full-time staff members including himself. Vernon said that is not enough to fight about 1,200 fires so far this year. Despite this, only one woman made a public comment at the board meeting. Her comment was not about possible understaffing at the fire department.

Eldon Mayor Ronald Bly said the fire department is not understaffed, but said the city did lay off one firefighter within the last few weeks to come up with the budget to hire a new police officer. The city did hire that new officer. Bly said he would not comment on this matter on camera because it is a "personnel issue" for the city.

According to the fire department, the ISO agency inspects the city's capacity to respond to and put out fires. ISO gives the city a 1-10 rating for insurance purposes. On this scale, 10 means no fire protection and one means excellent fire protection. The Eldon Fire Department currently has a rating of 4, which the fire department says is "pretty good." Vernon says one less firefighter will cause the rating to increase, indicating poorer protection. Consequently, Vernon says this could cause insurance rates to increase in residences and businesses inside Eldon city limits.

Vernon said the number of full-time staff members at the fire department has been decreasing throughout the last decade. The fire department had six full-time staff members in 2000. It lost one of those employees in 2002 and another this year. Vernon also refused to comment on camera Tuesday.

It is unclear when Eldon will receive a new rating, but the fire department said it expects to communicate with ISO by the end of July.