LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The Lansing Fire Department has taken one truck out of service because of a lack of staff.
It’s part of a growing national trend. As current firefighters reach retirement age, there are not enough recruits coming in to replace them.
Lansing Fire Department Assistant Chief Kenneth Lay says recruiting new firefighters has gotten more difficult.
In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the city saw applications for firefighting swell. That’s not the case anymore says Lay.
“Here we are 20 years later and I think people forgot that public service is still out there and we still have a need and it’s still a great job,” Lay says.
In addition, the benefits have declined over the years.
“What we are also seeing is, coming out of the great recession, that the jobs became less desirable,” says Matthew Sahr, president of the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union. “We lost a lot of health care like retiree health care was taken away and the pensions were reduced.”
The shortage in Lansing led officials to take truck 41 out of service for several hours. While it did not impact service and coverage, it did mean Lansing was relying on neighboring fire departments.
“We also have our mutual aid partners that we notify when one of our vehicles is out of service,” Lay says. “And if we need to call in mutual aid, we can. So in no time is the city left totally unsafe.”
The city is slated to bring in 26 new firefighters in the next month, but it still doesn’t backfill the retirement related openings.
Unions representing firefighters are pushing lawmakers to pass legislation making training for paramedics quicker and to help raise wages.