‘Critical shortage’ of firefighters


Wanted:  Firefighters and EMT’s.
That is the virtual ‘help wanted’ sign that is hanging on nearly every fire department in southern Ohio.
In an effort to address the problem, Mt. Orab Mayor Bruce Lunsford invited firefighters from Brown and Clermont counties, local educators and politicians to lunch at LaRosa’s on March 27.
Following the meeting,  Lunsford said that all of firefighters were saying the same thing.  They are constantly losing qualified people to larger departments.
“It’s creating a dramatic shortage of paramedics.  Not just here, but in Clermont County other nearby counties as well,” Lunsford said.
“The city of Cincinnati has 400 firefighters and paramedics that are going to retire in the next four years.  They are already pulling people from other larger departments like Mason and Loveland.  Those departments are turning around and pulling people from smaller departments.  It is fast becoming a critical issue.  There is a shortage of firefighter/EMT’s, especially at the rural  level.”
State Representative Doug Green attended the meeting.  Following the gathering, he said that he considered the issue very important and that he would pursue grant funding to try and help pay for local firefighter and paramedic education.
Southern Hills Career and Technical Center Superintendent Kevin Kratzer also attended the meeting. He said that SHCTC is committed to being part of the solution to the problem.
“We are going to open up a program for seniors in high school and adults for Firefighter 1, Firefighter 2 and EMT basic next fall,” Kratzer said.
“We are looking at this as beginning the pipeline to get future firefighters into the system.”
Kratzer said that SHCTC has been offering basic firefighter and EMT classes for adults for quite some time.
He added that the next logical step is to offer paramedic training.
“We want to start running a paramedic program in the Fall of 2017 if we can get enough students enrolled.  We also have some bureaucratic hoops to jump through before we can start that program,” Kratzer said.
“Hopefully some of those will turn into paramedics as they decide to make a career out the profession.”
The paramedic program is a year long and requires a final test before certification is awarded.
“Everyone is now in full hiring mode without a pipeline to fill it.  That’s where we want to step into the gap and help fill it at Southern Hills,” Kratzer said.
“If we can increase numbers in the pipeline, that gives us a chance to hold onto good young firefighters and paramedics at the local level.”
Lunsford said that the situation was compounded last year when the University of Cincinnati closed its paramedic program.
“They suddenly closed their paramedic school in Batavia with two weeks notice and their paramedic school in Blue Ash.  There are now no local paramedic programs in this part of southern Ohio,” he said.
Lunsford said that a career as a firefighter or paramedic is one that a young person should give serious consideration to.
“The police and fire retirement system is 25 years and out.  A kid can go into that at 20 years old and retire with full benefits at age 45,” Lunsford said.