Malta fire corps brace for growth

"We're looking to develop that and expand our downtown operation," said Shaw.

With bigger structures on the way, Shaw said he has concerns that his department won't have the equipment to reach up four or five-story buildings, and would like to acquire an aerial ladder.

"We don't always have what exactly we need," said Shaw. "It just makes good tactical sense to us to have an aerial ladder available to us on first call basis."

Such equipment is expensive, of course. Additional funding is on the horizon for both operations. The current estimate is that Fab 4X will generate $400,000 in fire taxes to be split between the departments, but only after its doors open in 2012, not when construction starts next year.

"Once they put shovels in the ground, we're going to be protecting the area. We're providing a service, and at this point we're not receiving any remuneration in that area," said Shaw, adding that would be the case with any project.

Before and beyond funding or equipment, both Shaw and Sievers say what they can really use are more volunteers.

"Probably the biggest issue for volunteer fire departments nationwide is membership," said Sievers.""

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