January 31, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Firefighters and paramedics work hard to serve us, but is the test to get into training too difficult?
The last round of testing wasn't too impressive. In fact, two thirds of test-takers failed.
While one Augusta commissioner argues the test may be too tough, those in the field say it may not be tough enough.
Firefighting in Augusta starts not with pumps, but on paper.
"We still have a process that everybody has to go through," said Fire Chief Howard Willis.
Fire Chief Willis says that process begins with a test with sections like basic math, reading gauges and spatial sense.
But Commissioner Marion Williams, a former firefighter, doesn't like some of the questions.
"(When I joined the fire department,) they didn't ask me anything about the fire pump, the fire apparatus, because that was Greek to me," Williams said. "That was new to me."
So just how many are failing?
According to human resources, 154 candidates took the test last may. Only 54 passed; 100 failed.
Alan Call is a retired firefighter who served for 14 years.
"I think that shows you who the 54 are that should be considered for the job," he said. "It's not a job you want somebody with no experience and no knowledge of."
Williams points to 17 vacancies in the department and wants to see the spots filled.
"I think the test is kind of keeping people out that we want to include in," he said.
Call, who has 14 years experience, argues the county should set its standards higher than that.
"I'm sorry, but the fire department, police department, things that involve human life...you need to be able to pick the best of the best regardless of where they're from."
A point of heated debate raising the question: is it too tough or not tough enough?
"It's a competitive field people want to get into," Fire Chief Willis said.
Augusta firefighters are also trained in EMS, hazardous materials, water rescue, and even teaching fire safety education.
We'll continue to follow this story for you.
If you'd like to weigh in, click here to join the discussion on our news blog.