The town of Tiffin has grown around 230 percent in the last decade and the Tiffin Fire Department is operating at about half the number of volunteers needed.
Chief Bill Hall tells KCRG TV the population growth has brought more calls — with 441 made to 9-1-1 in 2021. “As Tiffin continues to grow, 18 volunteer firefighters aren’t going to cut it, so the more the merrier for sure,” said Chief Hall. As of April 19th, the number of calls year-to-date was up 49 from 2021. Those calls have gone up by about 80 calls per year since 2018.
The chief says they’ve been trying to incentives volunteers. “We’ve actually started offering stipends to folks who answer calls. So, that’s a pay-per-call position. We also have applied for several grants, some of those are staffing grants,” he says. Last year mutual aid helped the Tiffen 18 times when volunteers couldn’t respond, and 70 calls were answered where volunteers were not EMS certified.
Volunteer firefighter and City Council member, Skylar Limkemann tells KCRG TV with the same 18 people being called out to each response, it’s causing burnout. “There are days where I can’t get any work done at my full-time job because we’ve been running fire calls all day long,” he says.
Limkemann says he wanted to bring on paid firefighters, but with the community growing so quickly, other demands have been made first. “With everything going on in the city, we have other projects that we need to do,” he says. “There are situations where you can budget for it, but other things come up, and you might not be able to hire that position just given other needs that may arise.”
Tiffin is located on the edge of Coralville and south of Cedar Rapids and there are no signs of the growth slowing down there. Chief Hall says the game plan is to continue to do whatever they can do to recruit new volunteer firefighters.