The Traverse City Fire Department met with city commissioners Monday to present their annual report.
Traverse City Fire Chief Jim Tuller also spoke about first responder shortages and how it’s impacting local fire departments.
According to Tuller, Traverse City fire departments have felt the affects of a nationwide shortage of people becoming first responders.
“That pool of applicants that we’ve seen 10, 15 years ago, or even five to seven years ago is not what it once was,” Tuller explained.
Tuller states Traverse City would normally receive 50 to 70 applicants every hiring period. But now, he says it’s much different.
“This last list we had, we had one applicant and he checked out, in fact his first day is today,” said Tuller.
Tuller is worried about the shortages and what that could mean for people caught in an emergency. He says it’s too dangerous to send one of their engines out with just one person. “We need more people,” Tuller said.
Grand Traverse Metro Fire Chief Pat Parker states they need more part-time firefighters.
Parker says they’re doing fine on full-time firefighters, but it’s part-time firefighters who are hard to come by. Part of the reason, according to Parker, is that part-time firefighters receive the same training as full-time firefighters do.
“We’re in a profession that is a little dangerous, it’s one you get dirty in, it’s one that requires a fair amount of training,” stated Parker.
Parker is not only concerned with manpower, but also the finances as well. He says one reason Grand Traverse Metro why wants part-time employees is because it will be cheaper for citizens taxes.
“When you bring a full-time employee on there’s the benefits cost, healthcare cost, retirement cost,” Parker said. “It’s tough on our tax payers.”
Parker has kept citizens in mind throughout the shortage.
“To be economically accountable to our citizens, we need to find a way to keep their taxes low,” Parker said.
Tuller plans to ask city commissioners for funding for one additional firefighter per shift later this year.
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