TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Tucson Fire Department has been straining to recruit all the firefighters it needs and COVID adds a new complication.
Tucson Fire isn’t getting as many recruits as it used to. Tucson Fire Chief Chuck Ryan says the department used to get as many as 17 hundred applicants per class but now it’s more like a thousand.
He says people who might have applied may find other careers with more pay and less stress. The Chief says he’s working to build a department people want to join from a sense of wanting to serve their home community.
He says COVID does not seem to discourage recruits.
“I haven’t as a Chief heard anybody say, no I don’t want to do this job because of COVID because if it’s not COVID it’s something else. We’ve had SARS and MERS and Ebola and these pandemic crises or near crises that have spanned over time, bird flu, I’ve been in this business close to 30 years now and it comes and goes, so the desire to serve is what drives people.”
FULL INTERVIEW: TFD Chief Chuck Ryan
A fire sparked the urge to serve in Solana Contreras and drove her to apply to the fire academy.
“I had an apartment fire where I lost everything in my entirety. So, kind of starting from scratch, getting the help from not only just my community and family but the firefighters that appeared on scene, they're the paramedics and everybody who is involved just in that event that day, kind of truly changed my perspective on not only my life but my career path.”
She’s learned this career path demands a tough combination of physical and mental determination to push through hard, hands-on training and difficult classroom work---while COVID-19 adds an extra twist to the training.
Cadets have to adapt to masks and distancing as they build their skills and take care in their personal lives so they don’t bring the virus back to their fellow cadets.
Training Captain Lyle Steffens says, “We know you have families and you still have to live but be wise, because we're in it, we're in a 22 week Academy. We want everyone to get through it. We can only have so much deviation from our standard do the COVID before and affects the training. We don't want that to happen. And we haven't had a COVID instance yet.”
And Fire Cadets know when their training is done they will graduate into a world of duty that will bring them in contact with COVID---and other dangers in the name of serving Tucson.
If you’d like to learn more about how to apply to Tucson Fire and the standards the department requiresyou can follow this link.