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Chief: Cincinnati Fire Department short-staffed due to retirements, COVID-19

Posted at 3:27 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 15:31:09-05

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Fire Department is experiencing significant staffing issues due to increased attrition and sick leave from COVID-19.

In a presentation to Cincinnati City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, Chief Roy Winston said the department is supposed to have 859 full-time employees but currently has only 805.

Additionally, attrition is 200% higher than the department budgeted for; the department is seeing high attrition rates because many employees are retiring, Winston said. The department did not receive the federal SAFER grant in 2019, which would have helped with recruiting.

The Cincinnati Fire Department's budget has been affected in two major ways: Costs of PPE and medical supplies have increased, and the department has had to pay overtime to employees when others are out sick.

Winston said about 222 Cincinnati Fire Department employees have contracted the virus over the last year.

“So throughout this last year, we’ve been dealing with the staffing shortages that that has caused us, and at the same time, in order to make sure the city has adequate resources, we had to fund that with overtime,” Winston said.

Despite shortages in staffing, Winston emphasized that the public should not be alarmed. The fire department still has 193 members on staff at any given moment. That has remained consistent, whether they have to fill it with overtime or by other means, Winston said.

Council Members Betsy Sundermann and Liz Keating submitted a motion to make the recruit class a priority in the 2022 budget.