GROVE - An estimated 60 to 70 percent of the time, a shortage of manpower forces the fire department to wait as long as 15 minutes before a truck can respond, Chief Lee Dollarhide told city leaders.

Mayor Gary Bishop said the situation was not good and one of “great concern” to him, as city council members discussed budgeting for the upcoming year.

Presently the Grove Fire Department has three paid members, Dollarhide with the remainder of the department comprised of volunteers who can't always leave their jobs to respond.

But, state regulations require all fire departments to have four people available before response to a fire - two to go inside the structure and two who will remain outside, Dollarhide explained.

If it is a rescue situation, Dollarhide said an exception can be made and three firefighters can leave for the scene.

With six paid firefighters on staff, Dollarhide said it would be possible for a team to leave the station the minute a call came in to the station.

It has been 12 years since the last man was hired for the fire department, Dollarhide told city officials.

In 1995, the Grove Fire Department responded to around 150 calls; last year, Dollarhide said his team responded to 455 situations.

Grove currently has an Insurance Services Office rating of five on a scale from one to 10 (one is best, 10 is worst). The better the ISO rating, the lower property insurance premiums are calculated.

Dollarhide informed council members that the last time his department requested an updated ISO testing to improve the rating was about seven years ago.

Those tests measure the amount of equipment and personnel on available to fight a fire, the amount of water at the department's disposal, as well as the time it would take to respond.

It would be impossible to improve Grove's rating to a classification of four unless three more paid firefighters were added to the department, Dollarhide told the council.

An ISO rating from five to a four could save homeowners between five and ten percent annually on insurance costs, according to one federal estimate.