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Into the fire: Unusually large class of volunteers delayed by supply-chain woes

Staff writer

There are few challenges fire chief Ben Steketee hasn’t dealt with, but good fortune has thrown him for a loop.

Six prospects are training to join the Hillsboro department as volunteer firefighters, the most he has ever worked with.

“I’ve had two prospects at a time, but never six,” he said. “It’s very good news, it’s awesome.”

The department’s charter only lists 25 firefighters and Hillsboro has 22, which means there are spots only for three, but Steketee doesn’t think that will be an issue.

“I think if I ask the counsel if I can hire more, they probably will go for it,” he said.

The catch: Steketee can’t equip new members with radios because of ongoing supply chain troubles. A unit the chief ordered in November still hasn’t come in.

“We have some other ways for firefighters to be contacted, either through active 911 or something like that,” he said. “But I really don’t want to do that because I want them to have communication available.”

City administrator Matt Stiles said many departments are having trouble receiving orders. Everything from pipe fittings to electrical equipment takes ages come in.

“It’s more of the supply chain back order,” he said. “I know there is a microchip shortage, but it’s hard to know what the hang-up is. It’s a challenge.”

In the meantime, prospects will undergo months of firefighter training until their membership with the department is put to a vote.

Stiles doesn’t think changing the department’s charter will be an issue.

“It’s just a good problem to have,” he said. “New firefighters can be brought on as a few retire.”

Blake Boddington is looking to join Hillsboro firefighters after three years with Valley Center’s department.

Another candidate, Jesse Dirks, is a recent hire with the city. Mitch Defiesta is co-owner of The Pickup Line along with his wife, Analisa Defiesta.

Nathan Schafer, Nathan Phillips, and Rusty Walter also have stepped up as possible volunteers.

Last modified Aug. 4, 2021

 

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