CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Fire swore in 46 new recruits Monday, bringing some much-needed assistance to a department that has been critically understaffed for several years.
CFD is currently down more than 100 firefighters, with its last recruit class graduating in fall 2021. Chief Michael A. Washington said the department's staffing shortages mainly stem from retirements.
“This class is long overdue,” Washington said. “Currently, the attrition rate is outpacing our ability to replace firefighters.”
In December, the city put the department under an emergency declaration due to staffing shortages. The move required mandatory overtime as CFD dealt with a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We were able to get through the season without having to force anyone to work against their wishes to stay on mandatory overtime,” said Matt Alter, Local 48 Union president. “That's something that we explained before is that firefighters work 24 continuous hours with 48 hours off.”
Alter has been advocating for more personnel as the volume of calls for service each year increases. According to Alter, CFD made roughly 240,000 responses in 2021.
“What we’re working on right now is just to get the staffing levels to a point we can staff what we have now,” he said. “It’s hard to even have those conversations about expansion of service when we’re struggling just to do what we need.”
In eight months, Maurice Byrd will retire from his duty with CFD. He said after 33 years on the job, he’s leaving because it’s financially responsible.
“Financially and everything with the pension board too, I need to go,” he said. “It’s going to be beneficial for me and my family to retire at that point.”
It’s a decision Byrd called bittersweet.
“I wouldn’t do another career in my entire life,” he said. “This has been the best job I have ever had.”
'We’re asking for superhuman feats': Cincinnati declares emergency due to fire department staffing
City council weighs options for fire department during state of emergency due to staffing shortages