The Bloomington Fire Department has hired four additional full-time firefighters/fire inspectors to help with current daytime staffing shortages and inspections. With increased staffing challenges to recruit, train and retain part-time firefighters, the department continues changing and modifying its staffing model to meet the needs of the city.
“Finding people to commit the time and effort to complete the initial training, continuing training and responding to calls for service has become increasingly challenging. The pandemic made it even more difficult,” Fire Chief Ulie Seal said. “It is difficult to compete with people’s time commitments to their jobs and families.”
By continuing to add more full-time staff and adjust the part-time firefighter requirements, the department hopes to improve response times and eventually provide adequate coverage at all fire stations 24 hours a day.
Long-term staffing plan
Chief Seal addressed the City Council to discuss transitioning the department to a hybrid model of 75 full-time and 60 paid-on-call firefighters. The plan is to hire six full-time firefighters per year over the next 10 years. To add the six full-time firefighters annually would cost approximately one percent to the overall property tax levy.
The department applied for a Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant from FEMA to add 18 full-time firefighters. If awarded, the department may be able to accelerate adding full-time firefighters. The grant will cover salary and benefits for three years. At the end of the three-year period, the cost for the salary and benefits will be assumed by the City. This grant would allow the City to plan for changes and adjust budget projections for the department.
History of the BFD staffing model
Many fire departments across the nation operate under a volunteer or paid-on-call firefighter system. The Bloomington Fire Deparment has been operating this way since the meeting in 1947 that marked its founding.
As Bloomington continued to grow and the associated risks increased, the department changed to meet the needs of the city. In 2007, the department transitioned to a combination department with the fire chief’s position moving to full time. The department has continued to add full-time positions since 2007. Currently there are seven chief officers/command staff, eight inspector/firefighters and 97 part-time firefighters. For questions, call 952-563-4801.