Amherst Fire Chief: The department doesn’t have enough staff

The Chief would like to have more people ready to respond to emergencies

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The Amherst Fire Department has a minimum staffing level of 7 firefighters per shift, but Fire Chief Tim Nelson said their call volume exceeds their staffing. He said firefighters will be called in from off duty, and the department often calls for assistance from other towns.

Shavahn Best of Amherst said, “Everyone knows someone who lives in Amherst, who has called the fire department, has had to wait, and has heard stories of ambulances having to come from other towns.”

Amherst Fire call-volume increases every year, and neighboring departments were called in for mutual aid last year at least once a week. Chief Nelson said, “Given school, training, sickness vacation, it’s rare that we have a shift that is filled completely.”

The Fire Chief said he’s concerned emergency responses will take too long at current staffing levels. He said Amherst has hired a company to conduct a staffing study to evaluate the needs of the department. They hope to have the findings next month, which could lead to increased staffing.

Chief Nelson added that the department’s minimum staffing levels haven’t changed for the last 25 years; it’s a matter of safety, and things need to change.