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Local History

New Firefighters Relieve Understaffing

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/newfirefig_7108.mp3

Earlier this year the Springfield city council voted to hire new firefighters despite the ongoing hiring freeze. The Springfield Fire Department has been struggling with 20 vacancies for almost two years now. On Thursday, though, 10 recruits will graduate from the Springfield Fire Academy, and next week seven more recruits will begin training. KSMU’s Adam Murphy reports.

This kitchen at Fire Station No.1 in Central Springfield used to be a lot busier before the hiring freeze was implemented. Randy Villines is the Springfield Fire Department assistant fire chief. He says the fire stations have been struggling with fewer firefighters.

“We have obviously had to, with the staffing shortage that we have incurred for quite some time now, rotate station closures and up to two units per day have been shut down,” he said.

As of next week, they will get some relief as 10 new recruits join the stations across the city. Villines says the stations can all remain open now that the vacancies are filled.

Captain John Grier at Fire Station No.1 says he is thankful for these new recruits because they will help the department improve service to the citizens of Springfield. He says normal response for the department is six minutes and 19 seconds-that’s from the time the phone call is received to the time firefighters arrive on the scene. Since they have had to periodically close stations down, however, this response time has increased because there are not enough engines.

“Just a few short months ago we had an instance where we had a fire in a building call in our district that the rescue would have responded to first, but the rescue was out on a medical in the district because the engine company was shut down. So that required another from an outlying district to respond and it takes a little but longer time,” said Grier.

The day after these 10 recruits begin their duties, seven more will begin their training process. Villines says the training will take 10-12 weeks, and then those recruits will help fill the remaining vacancies.

13 of the firefighter’s salaries are being funded through a Federal grant, and the remainder of the costs will be paid for by the city.

Despite these new recruits, the Springfield Fire Department still has three administrative vacancies. Villines says he hopes those can be filled once the economy improves.

For KSMU News, I’m Adam Murphy.