TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson’s public safety departments are ramping up efforts to recruit due to staffing shortages.
“This past year for Tucson Fire, staffing challenges have been pretty significant,” said Chuck Ryan, Tucson Fire Chief.
The Tucson Fire Chief says the department has struggled to retain employees during the pandemic.
“We’re in a staffing shortage," Chief Ryan said. "We’ve had people retire, move on to other careers.”
Other public safety departments have seen a similar trend.
"Staff levels are in the mid-700s," said Richard Gradillas with the Tucson Police Department. "We would like to be closer to the 800 mark, above 800.”
“With lower staffing it’s a higher workload for everyone else which can cause burnout,” said Ivan de la Torre, a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
But with the new year comes the expectation of change. Tucson Fire, Police, and dispatchers have organized job fairs to speak with potential hires.
“Recruitment has improved a lot,” de la Torre said.
These fairs have brought recent success for the 9-1-1 dispatch center.
“I know this year and a within last year, we’ve seen a big increase in people applying and actually enjoying their job and staying around,” de la Torre said.
Tucson city council has helped with recruitment as well. Council members recently approved the largest ever pay raise for Tucson Police employees.
“We’re encouraging people to come," Gradillas said. "People want to see change within this profession, we’re encouraging people to come be part of that change.”
Tucson fire received a federal grant in September that will allow the department to add 13 firefighters to their overall headcount. That would make for a total of 645.
“We have folks working mandatory overtime, sometimes up to 48 hours," Chief Ryan said. "Having this additional staff on board will greatly reduce a lot of that stress, it will drive our overtime dollars down. That in turn, is a win for the city.”
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