The Gadsden Times, Ala.
The Gadsden Fire Department has found funding to put six firefighters in training to be paramedics, Chief Wil Reed said, but training won’t be complete for five of them until Christmas 2022.
“We’re hurting for paramedics,” Reed told members of the Gadsden City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.
He said there currently are 30 on staff, with six in administrative positions. One is expected to leave in August, and another probably will leave the department by the end of the year.
The chief said he’d worked with Finance Director Lisa Rosser, and found funding to send six firefighters for training, at a cost of $46,424. One of the paramedic candidates already has some training, he said, or the cost would be more.
If the department were paying these firefighters to go to training on duty, he said, the cost would be about $38,000 more.
Reed said those who get paramedic training on the city’s dime sign a contract to stay with the department at least two years. If they do not stay two years, or if they drop out of training, they must repay the cost.
The chief gave committee members a list of personnel who had left the department and where they’d gone. Some questioned why people leave GFD for departments in smaller cities — whether those cities pay more.
Reed said hasn’t compared salaries at various departments, and committee Chairman Ben Reed suggested the volume of calls and workload at smaller departments may be part of the lure.
The chief said the two area ambulance services recently increased their pay to $18 an hour — something that could be attractive for paramedics working at the fire department.
Firefighters have left for other reasons — for school or other businesses. Some left for personal reasons, he said. Sometimes that meant they didn’t pass, or were struggling to pass, emergency medical testing training and quit because without success in that training, they would be fired.
Wil Reed said there are three firefighters currently in EMT training and if they don’t pass. the department has to terminate them.
Ben Reed also questioned the issue of dogs at Noccalula Falls Park. He said he’d spoken with a man who was attacked, along with his dog, by a pit bull that was not leashed at the park. He asked about signage and about the fines that can be assessed for violations.
Parks and Recreation Director Jen Weathington said there’s an ongoing problem with signs of all kinds, including those specifying leash requirements. She said the department usually keeps signs on hand to replace those that go missing, when they’re noticed.
Reed suggested signs be made that include information about the maximum fine of $250 for violations.
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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