Recruit classes may not solve Cincinnati Fire Department staffing problem, chief says

One-fourth due to retire in next eight years
Posted at 8:01 PM, Jul 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-01 20:15:19-04

CINCINNATI - The Cincinnati Fire Department admits it has lots of improvements to make following FAO Daryl Gordon's death.

Better training, better communication and hiring more people are at the top of the list, according to the department's new report. Staffing is the key, though, and that's going to be a roller coaster ride.


When the current 40-member recruit finishes its work later this year, the department will be at full strength. But staying there is going to be a real challenge because of impending retirements.

The department's authorized strength is 850 firefighters, but right now there are just 810. The recruit class and one starting in February will close the gap, at least for a while.

There are already 17 retirements anticipated next June. And Chief Richard Braun says that's not the worst part.

"Almost a quarter of our department is in the DROP program (deferred retirement) and will have to retire within the next eight years," Braun said.

All of them have to be replaced one recruit class at a time.

"To stay even with the game, we're going to have to have classes every year to maintain the balance of the department," Braun said.

The department has been playing staffing catch-up since brownouts ended in 2014. For five years, some apparatus sat idle each day because there weren't enough firefighters.

The chief says that hurt public safety and made for an older department.

"We had our people staying longer. We weren't hiring. There weren't any young ones coming in," Braun said.

There are now. Several thousand people signed up for 40 recruit positions. But more are needed, Braun said.

"Until we can get to a minimum and, as I said, a little bit above the minimum, can we then expand out and expand our training bureau and get more people in the equipment."

City leaders have made public safety a top priority, but to keep that promise they're going to have to come up with $1.8 million.