The city is considering a new fire levy in 2021, fire administrators told City Council in September. Department officials then told City Council they needed to add nine new positions to help maintain adequate levels of staffing at its three stations, but the current fire levy won’t be able to support those positions. A decision on the levy hasn’t been made.
The department relies heavily on part-time firefighters, but it faces issues keeping 48 part-time spots filled with experienced firefighters. More than 100 part-timers have left since 2015, as high turnover is common in part-time firefighters.
Eight of the newest part-time firefighters hired have less than a month of experience, and four just finished emergency medical technician school and are waiting to be certified with the national EMT registry.
As of now, only 40 of those 48 part-time jobs are filled.
Part-time firefighters typically stay about 16 months before they leave for a full-time position, and more than a dozen regional departments are looking to fill open full-time jobs, said Fairfield Deputy Fire Chief Randy McCreadie.
“There was a time the schools would wait on us to hire,” he said. “Now we’re waiting on the schools to get people out to us. That’s how robust the firefighter market is today for part-timers.”
More part-time firefighters will be hired away from Fairfield within the next two months, McCreadie said. There are 14 departments in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, Montgomery and Warren counties hiring for career positions, and McCreadie said Middletown will be hiring three of Fairfield’s part-time firefighters.
The city’s staffing goal is to have 18 firefighters to cover shifts at its three stations. McCreadie said 12 of those spots are “critical” positions for full-time staff to fill because they require certifications a part-time firefighter does not possess. There are 30 full-time frontline firefighters.
“That takes time, experience, education, and training to function, and these are traits that these part-timer firefighter/EMTs just are not able to offer either because they either don’t stay long enough ... or they get their (paramedic) card and we don’t have time to turn them into medics so they leave.”
“The intent here is to not to get rid of part-timers,” said McCreadie, calling them “a valuable piece of our operations.” “We’re just trying to reduce the dependencies on these folks to fill critical positions.”