SPANISH FORT, Ala. (WKRG) – It’s an essential service in Spanish Fort, but without volunteers the fire department wouldn’t exist.

“We depend on the volunteer spirit here in the city,” said Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan.

Since 1962 the department has played a vital role on the Eastern Shore before Spanish Fort was ever a city. Now, the area is growing at a rapid pace and city officials are looking ahead to the future.

“We’ve got a lot of opportunities to take care of, additional fire stations. We now have fire station #4 up on the north part of town we’re going to have to build a station for. We’re going to have to build a training center. It’s going to take a lot of coordination, so the merger is the proper time,” said McMillan.

The mayor says the city conducted a study with the University of South Alabama to look at a possible merger between Spanish Fort Fire Rescue and city hall. The findings show it’s the best move, he says.

“It’s been a long drawn out process,” he continued.

Even if the change does take effect Mayor McMillan says residents shouldn’t notice any major differences. In fact, he says the merger would actually offer even better services as the department continues to grow and expand its footprint.

“Come August 1st all of the members that are paid employees at the fire station will become city employees,” Mayor McMillan said.

That’s if the city council and the Spanish Fort Fire Rescue board agree on the terms. Paid members, like Spanish Fort Fire Chief Roger Few, will keep their jobs. Mayor McMillan says there will be no change in benefits or pay and the board would still oversee the department and the volunteers. The city council is expected to vote on the merger Monday night.