3 full-time firefighters added to Orange Department

  • Jay Kersting is one of three new hires at the Orange Fire Department. —Orange Fire Department

  • John Smith is one of three new hires at the Orange Fire Department. —Orange Fire Department

  • Nino Rodriguez is one of three new hires at the Orange Fire Department. —Orange Fire Department

Staff Writer
Published: 2/12/2019 10:35:38 PM

ORANGE — There are three new faces in town, full-time firefighter/EMTs who are boosting the town’s ability to respond to calls locally and in surrounding communities. 

Filling the three new full-time jobs are Jay Kersting, Nino Rodriguez and John Smith, and all of them have experience as firefighters, emergency medical technicians or paramedics. The hires — salaries and benefits — are primarily paid for with a three-year, $706,185 Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grant, known as SAFER, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

Kersting is joining from the Ashfield Fire Department, where he was fire alarm operator, as well as from the Berlin Fire Department as a firefighter and EMT. He is also enrolled at Quinsigamond Community College in pursuit of a paramedic license. Kersting is assigned to the Fire Department’s Group 3. 

Rodriguez joins from American Medical Response and Northfield Emergency Medical Services, where he worked as a paramedic. Rodriguez is assigned to the Fire Department’s Group 2. 

Smith comes to Orange as a firefighter and advanced EMT who previously served with the Hollis (N.H.) Fire Department. Smith joins the Fire Department’s Group 1. 

According to Fire Chief James Young, the new hires allow the Fire Department to bring the number of personnel working per shift from three to four. 

Before the hires were approved, Young described the staffing situation as challenging because of how often Orange helps with emergency response in surrounding towns. 

“We are adding staffing, but we’re trying to keep up with the demand that’s being placed on us,” Young said. “The demand is already there.”

Residents approved the town’s matching funds to receive the SAFER grant at the Special Town Meeting last August, as well as a first-year payment of $25,000. The grant is divided into three 12-month periods. For the first and second years, the town will pay 25 percent of the cost of the employees, and in the third year the town’s contribution is raised to 35 percent.

“The SAFER grant was designed to provide assistance to municipalities who have demonstrated a need for additional staffing coupled with a financial need,” Young said.

According to Young, there is no town obligation to keep the employees after three years, but the intention is to have them permanently, especially since the Fire Department continues to increase its revenues through propane installation, fire detector inspections and gas storage, as well as being able to run an additional ambulance with the increased staffing. At the end of the last budget year, Young said he saw the Fire Department’s revenues increase to an average of $650,000 annually from $450,000 annually over his three years as chief. 

The new hires are one piece of a series of upgrades to the Orange Fire Department approved by voters last year. Residents allowed $100,000 for “repairs to the Fire Station Roof and structure, including design, materials and construction costs” — the only upgrade not backed by a grant — as well as matching funds for FEMA grants for a new mobile breathing air compressor trailer and a new fire engine. 

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268. 

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