The Lansing Fire Department is moving quickly to make new hires by the end of the year.
“We currently have 180 personal and we only have 10 vacancies right now,” Lansing Fire Chief Greg Martin said.
The department is currently planning on six new hires by December, he said, with another hiring blitz closer to the new year. The department has shortened the window for applications to 60 days to be more competitive with other fire departments in the state that are having staffing shortages.
Most of the open positions are from people within the department who have retired or are getting ready to retire.
The fire department requires employees to work 2,880 hours in a year. That works out to being 10 days of 24-hour shifts a month.
Martin said the department has faced a variety of challenges since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The biggest hurdle was probably trying to figure out the guidelines the state sent out,” Martin said. “We had to figure them out before they became obsolete by what seemed to be the next day.”
During the early months of the pandemic, there were no delays in response times, Martin said.
He said that’s something the department has been particularly proud of given the additional safety guidelines personnel had to follow, including disinfecting equipment and trucks.
Martin said he believes most of the staff is vaccinated because there have not been many COVID-19 cases in the department in recent months.
One shortage the department is still dealing with is in paramedics. There was a shortage of paramedics and EMTs even before the pandemic even started, EMS division Chief Ralph Ortiz said. He said the shortage of staff so far is not affecting response times.
“There is a nationwide shortage of paramedics, and we are definitely dealing with that here,” Ortiz said.
He said one of the reasons for the shortage is the cost of schooling.
“The cost for paramedic school at a community college is around $20,000, which is very high,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz said emergency calls were down at the beginning of the pandemic because people wanted to avoid going to the hospital because those were COVID-19 epicenters. Now his paramedics and EMTs are being called to help people who may be in worse shape because they’ve been avoiding medical care for so long, Ortiz said.