Nine months after terminating its fire chief, Falcon Heights has decided to forgo hiring a new chief and instead will contract with the Roseville Fire Department to provide administrative and training services for its paid on-call Fire Department.
The Falcon Heights City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a $40,000 annual contract with Roseville. If the measure passes, Roseville fire officials will serve as Falcon Heights’ fire chief, assistant chief, two battalion chiefs and administrative coordinator. The Falcon Heights Fire Department will continue to be staffed by paid on-call community members.
Roseville would provide the “overall supervision and management of all emergency and nonemergency day-to-day department operations and tasks,” according to city documents.
That would include hazardous materials, rescue, emergency medical services training, fleet and equipment management and investigation and personnel management decisions (with the approval of the city administrator).
According to the contract, Roseville Fire Department would “provide a safe, courteous, professional, and consistent level of service for the department and community.”
Falcon Heights Mayor Randy Gustafson said that he and City Administrator Sack Thongvanh met with nearly all the members of the 18-person Fire Department to figure out its future.
“They wanted to keep our own department that was meeting the needs of the community,” Gustafson said, along with additional training, leadership and recruitment.
But city officials “were unable to find a chief within our ranks,” he said. That was when the Roseville Fire Department stepped up to help, he said.
Roseville has one of the busiest suburban fire departments in the Twin Cities, responding to more than 5,000 calls for service annually. In contrast, Falcon Heights firefighters responded to 119 calls, including 20 fires, according to the department’s 2017 report.
The Roseville Fire Department will have 20 full-time firefighters in 2020, nearly 20 paid on-call firefighters and a $4.3 million annual budget.
The Falcon Heights department, with one firehouse and a $185,000 annual operating budget, has no full-time staff. It provides fire services for neighboring Lauderdale.
The City Council last spring terminated Fire Chief Rich Hinrichs, citing his angry outbursts and disrespectful language. Hinrichs, a full-time St. Paul firefighter, had received a $1,000 monthly stipend for serving as chief.
Falcon Heights, with a population of 5,600, covers an area of 2.3 square miles on St. Paul’s northern border.