Local firefighter budget goes to COVID


Sam McGrath

The Surrey Heights Bettendorf Fire Station which is currently only staffed by volunteer positions will acquire two career personnel later this month.

Sam McGrath, Business Manager

The city of Bettendorf has been expanding, building and innovating consistently in the past few years. When a city is constantly growing, the constituents expect city leaders to develop their emergency services. 

These concerns were brought to the surface when 27-year-old Michael Brown lost his life to an asthma attack after it took emergency services 11 minutes to respond. 

The Brown family pleaded with officials affiliated with the city of Bettendorf to staff the Surrey Heights Firehouse, in Bettendorf at 5002 Crow Creek Road, around the clock. As a result, Bettendorf started developing what is known as the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) Grant. 

This grant, submitted in May 2020, would hire six new firefighters. However, COVD-19 has wreaked havoc on almost every budget across the country, and unfortunately, the fire department learned the grant would not come through. 

Bettendorf officials had prepared for the possibility of this grant not coming through. With that said, Bettendorf Fire Chief Steve Knorrek has been working to get more career positions at the Surrey Heights station. “[T]he top priority established by the City Council and Mayor was ‘Fire/Medic Services and Staffing: Funding and Implementation,’” Knorrek emphasized 

The SAFER Grant was not received, but funding had already begun due to the fact that this was a top priority. “The City Council established funding beginning after this for 3 new career personnel in October and 3 new career personnel in February,” Knorrek stated.

When this happens, two experienced firefighters will be moved to the Surrey Heights station, and the three new personnel will be stationed at the State Street or Spruce Hills stations. This will allow for the two full time firefighters to be at Surrey Heights on their A day. 

Bettendorf Fire Department’s shift schedule is on a three week rotation with three day cycles. This means on the B and C days, the Surrey Heights station will be staffed with volunteer firefighters. Bettendorf heavily relies on volunteer firefighters and their service to the public. 

Captain Matt Lawson of Bettendorf Fire Rescue points out the importance of volunteer firefighters. “[T]hey (volunteers) are relied on to do as much as any of our career staff…when we go to an incident we utilize them the exact same way,” elaborated Lawson.

He also pointed out that these volunteers were “exceptionally critical” to the emergency services of Bettendorf. They are treated as equals to the career positions and are expected to perform their duties in a similar manner. 

Bettendorf Fire relies on volunteers because many of these positions eventually make their way into career positions. They are crucial to the system because they are a cost-effective way to make sure that citizens of Bettendorf have emergency services from 7 P.M. through 7 A.M. 

While there have been discussions among city officials about hiring more firefighters for career positions, Knorrek said that those positions are dependent on further budget planning. However, due to the rapid growth of the city of Bettendorf this is putting more pressure on elected officials to maintain emergency services.