COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The Columbus Fire Department says it’s now responding to calls with a shortage of nearly 40 firefighters and medical service professionals. That’s up from being 25 positions short just four months ago.
“That’s a safety concern,” says Division Chief Daniel Macon.
They’re now taking steps to put more first responders in the field. This week, they hired a new class of 34 trainees to try to tackle the issue.
“This is my 11th year in training division and we’ve never hosted a class this large,” says Lt. Charles Herlth.
This comes after a recent change to allow for more than one hiring process a year. Herlth, who specializes in training, says the need is critical after some firefighters have moved out of the department.
“We’ve had some firefighters move to Fort Benning and some who just find other opportunities, and we don’t fault that. But it does put us in a slight deficit. We’re trying to backfill as many positions as we can,” Herlth explains.
Macon says there is confusion about Columbus Fire & EMS. Some think they are separate departments that work together, but he says it’s one department that will require nine weeks of training with fighting fires, EMS training, and even active shooter situations.
“The same people that you see kicking in doors and fighting fires are the same who could be putting a needle in your arm,” Macon explains.
“We can only hire so many individuals and train so many with a four-person training staff. 34 individuals is the biggest class that I’ve personally had in the last 11 years. I’m looking to see how interesting it’s going to be as well as far as organizations,” says Herlth.
They say Wednesday is dedicated to the classroom for training as well as some outdoor activities. Thursday morning is when the work begins on the training ground where there will be active drills.