Union: Medic certification requirement fueling N.Y. city FD staffing crisis
Eric Wisher, president of Troy Uniform Firefighters Association Local 86, suggests the city lower the requirement to an EMT certification
By Rachel Engel
TROY, N.Y. — As the Troy Fire Department looks to fill 12 vacancies, the president of the local fire union says he believes the current staffing crisis at the department is fueled in part by requiring all recruits to be certified paramedics.
“There’s not a lot of people going to paramedic school,” Eric Wisher, president of Troy Uniform Firefighters Association Local 86, said in an interview with CBS 6 Albany. “It’s not a profession they’re getting into just to be a fireman.”
Wisher suggests the city lower the medic requirement to an EMT certification, which would widen the pool of qualified candidates. He also mentioned that raising the starting salary, which starts at just over $37,000, would be helpful in attracting recruits as well.
“By the time you take taxes out, if you take the tuition out the first year, you take out their health insurance – what they pay in health insurance – they’re making like $12,000 a year for the first year of take home,” Wisher said. “That’s not a lot of money to live on for somebody that has to rent an apartment or somebody that has a family with kids.”
While the department used to reimburse tuition for recruits to attend paramedic school, the practice was stopped nine years ago as a cost-cutting measure.
In a statement, the Troy Mayor Patrick Madden said the city was working with fire department leadership to address staffing concerns.
"I applaud Troy's fire professionals that serve the needs of our residents and keep our neighborhoods safe," the statement read. "To support them, this administration made record investments in the Troy Fire Department including the purchase of new turnout gear, new fire engines, and the planned replacement of the Lansingburgh station. We will continue to work with our fire chiefs and command staff to meet staffing needs in the department."