OWEN COUNTY — Major staffing changes are coming to the Owen Valley Fire Department and the community is divided on how it is being handled.
The department is transitioning from having volunteers to paid firefighters and some say they are worried about their safety.
Lt. Joe Frye is one of the members of the Owen Valley Volunteer Firefighters Incorporated Group, but it's a group the Owen Valley Fire Territory Board has decided not to work with anymore.
"I'm done volunteering in my community for this fire department and a lot of the other guys are too," Frye said.
Terry English, an attorney representing the board, says the change is needed to ensure fire protection in the future.
"Fewer and fewer young people, millennials, are interested in fighting fire and becoming volunteer firefighters," English said.
The $60,000 stipend previously divided among volunteers is now being used to pay the salaries of staff firelighters. The department now has two full-time employees and two part-time employees will be added later.
Volunteers, who will not be compensated and from a new organization, will staff the department for now. This has left some residents concerned.
Residents are voiced their opinions through online petitions saying the changes were made without input from the community.
"We have not had any big fires since this has change and I hope we don't," Brett Levy, a Spencer resident, said. "This will be something to see there on the response time and the knowledge."
The Owen Fire Territory Board recently announced any firefighter who has previously served for the department can join the new organization.