Washington TownshipMontgomery County, Ohio

Firefighter Staffing

Firefighter Staffing
Posted on 08/29/2018

A Scarcity of Part-Time Firefighters Signals a Change in Staffing

Washington Township Fire Department has set its sights on hiring 12 new full-time firefighters this year to help fill a staffing gap caused by a trend felt throughout southwest Ohio – the shortage of part-time firefighters.

“Staffing extensively with part-time firefighters has benefitted fire departments and tax payers for many years, but the benefit is running out,” said Fire Chief Bill Gaul. Despite an aggressive recruitment campaign with financial incentives to attract and retain part-time staff, the positions have gone unfilled, forcing the department to hire more full-time firefighters at a higher cost.  

To offset the cost of the new positions, the township is deferring the replacement of Station 41, a $3.2 million project that would provide needed space for staff and equipment at the department’s oldest fire station. Another $500,000 will be freed up by contracting with the county for dispatch (story on page 1).

With these measures in place, the new positions can be funded through 2020 when another revenue source will be needed, Gaul said.

However, the need for full-time firefighter positions does not end there. “With part-time firefighters being harder to find, we anticipate we’ll need to hire even more full-time firefighters to maintain staffing,” Gaul said.

To fully staff equipment at the township’s five fire stations without routinely paying overtime requires 28 people on duty at all times. With the new full-timers on board, 16 of the slots will be filled with full-time staff, leaving 12 slots budgeted for part timers. However, the department has only been able to fill about 8.5 slots with part-time staff – and the decline has not yet hit a plateau.

“This has been a constantly shifting target. It’s been a challenge because, like many departments, our budget has been built around the availability of part time staff,” Gaul said. Staffing with part-time firefighters costs less, and hourly pay is only part of it, he noted. Unlike full-time employees, part-time firefighters do not receive health insurance benefits and are paid only for the hours they work, not vacation, holidays or sick leave.