According to this article via the Farmington Independent, Farmington’s paid on-call fire department is having a problem retaining its members and it’s constantly looking to fill positions left vacant by inevitable member turnover.
From the article:
The Farmington Fire Department is currently running about three members shy of its full complement of 50. The department had been down by four members earlier in the year, so four new members were selected. Just after those four got on, though, two resigned. Then last week, a third member resigned.
It’s a constant cycle at the fire department these days. Members come, members go. Fire chief Tim Pietsch can’t blame any of them for leaving. The last three resigned because they and their families relocated. Earlier this year, two members with 20-plus years of service retired.
“It’s just one of those things. Life happens,” Pietsch said. “Some of these guys, they’re just starting out. They have to find a place to raise their families. They have to do what’s right for them. It’s tough though, because you spend time and effort to get them trained and up to speed. You get them there and hope they’ll stick around for 10, 20 years. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don’t.”
While high turnover is a reality faced by any organization, especially one which is almost volunteer level yet requires a good amount of time, training and a high response rate at all hours it’s fairly clear that paid on-call departments face an uphill battle which is even steeper than your usual company. However, according to the 2011 Farmington Fire Department Annual Report, the situation for experienced firefighters with 5+ years experience doesn’t seem as dire as this particular article may lead you to believe.
According to the 2011 report:
- 52% of the Department has less than 5 years experience
33% of the Department has more than 20 years experience
15% of the Department has between 5 and 20 years experience
It would appear at the time the report was generated that there were 49 members of the FFD squad. With 48% (~23 firefighters, 21 now) having more than 5 years experience, it seems like the department is doing just fine as it is. While more would definitely be welcome, with the current state of the economy and people fearing for job loss, it’s no wonder that those individuals who may have young families may not be interested in running out of work on a regular basis or coming to work tired due to overnight calls and risking their jobs. With the department’s call response requirement going up to match other Dakota County cities next year, one may wonder whether there will be even less interest.
While the department uses community events to help drum up new recruits, perhaps more needs to be done. What would you do to help get the word out that your local fire department needed more numbers to bolster the work they do? Are you a firefighter or do you have one in your family? What is it like to be an paid on-call member? How much time is spent away from home and work? Would you prefer to see more local cities move to a model where firefighters are paid full time for their work? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.