News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Jan. 28, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) --The Richmond County Fire Department is working to hire and train more firefighters. They say they have been short-staffed for several years and that it's time to close the gap.
A new recruit class just started a rigorous training schedule this past week in hopes that they will help get the department back to full capacity.
The training lasts six months and Demarcus Chavous says he expects it to be a long six months.
"I can tell it's going to be very intense, very detailed, discipline driven, we train to make zero mistakes at critical times," he said.
Chavous, along with 29 others, made it through the rigorous interview , agility test and selection process, but their journey to fight fires is far from over.
Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James says, "All of them don't make it through, it is our hope that they make it through, of course, because we need all the firefighters."
This recruit class is crucial because the Fire Department is short-staffed.
James says the department hasn't hired consistently every year, and on top of that, people retire, get injured or move onto other jobs.
"A lot of people go through the trainings and then realize, OK, maybe this isn't for me," said Lisa Renew, whose uncle used to be a firefighter who worked a lot of overtime hours because of the short staffing.
"I trust in our firefighters, in our county, I know that they will get the job done they will work hard, but the fact is, they do need more help," she said.
Which is why Chief James says they will continue to have two recruit classes like this per year, every year.
"It will stop us from having to have so much overtime or not having enough staffing to cover particular stations," he said.
Eventually, they hope the boost in hiring will lead to having firefighters and EMT workers on reserve.
"Our goal is to get to the point that we have a hiring list, so whenever you have vacancies, you can start pulling people in," he said.