Ohio fire officials ask to add 30% more full-time firefighters
The Fairfield Fire Department is asking the city to hire nine firefighters to help combat member retention issues
Michael D. Pitman
Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio
FAIRFIELD, Ohio — The Fairfield Fire Department is asking the city to hire nine new full-time firefighter positions over the next four years.
Part-time employees leaving for full-time jobs continues to be a problem many departments face, said Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett. Fairfield has seen 119 part-time firefighters leave its ranks for full-time jobs elsewhere, and the department is required to often hire inexperienced firefighters who on average stay just longer than 16 months.
To fund the positions, the city would be required to seek a levy as early as November 2021, according to city officials. What a levy would look like is yet to be determined. If City Council approves increasing the number of front-line firefighters from 30 to 39, the department would need to be subsidized by $1.4 million from the general fund by 2024, said Finance Director Scott Timmer.
The city maintains 48 part-time personnel.
Since 2015, the Fairfield Fire Department has had to hire 119 part-time personnel to replace those who have left for other departments, said Deputy Chief Randy McCreadie. From January 2019 to September 2020, Fairfield has lost 37 part-time employees, 26 of whom were hired into full-time positions in the fire service, he said. A handful more part-timers are also anticipated to leave as they are in the final stages of employment elsewhere, he said.
Bennett said the department can make changes to staffing before hiring new positions, which could include three hired in 2022, three hired in 2023 and three hired in 2024.
Fairfield City Council in November voted against accepting a second federal firefighting staffing grant, which would have required the city to hire six new full-time firefighters and increase its minimum staffing levels per shift. City Manager Mark Wendling said in November, and then again Monday, the grant would have drained the 2016-approved levy funds sooner than anticipated.
The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant would require the city to provide matching funds and agree to not reduce staffing levels when the grant expired.
©2020 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)