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Shortage of firefighter applicants leads to five city collaboration

Posted at 5:24 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 18:15:28-05

There's never been a better time to become a firefighter, some say, with fewer people applying for the public safety jobs than ever before. 

"Public safety across the board is seeing a decline of applicants," Lyndhurst Fire Chief Mike Carroll told News 5. 

Now fire departments in five communities are coming together to do what's never been done before in Northeast Ohio. 

"We don't want to settle for substandard because that's all we have," Carroll said. 

South Euclid, Lyndhurst, Pepper Pike, Mayfield Heights and Highland Heights are making a proactive move by attempting to increase their shrinking pools by hosting one entrance exam on December 12.  

The folks who take the exam and apply will be considered by all of the departments at once. 

"It's a credit to our civil service commissions of all five cities that they got together and hammered out the framework to present this as a regional option," Lyndhurst's Mayor Patrick Ward told News 5. 

Some say the applicant shortage is because of the cuts within fire departments during and after the hit to the economy in 2008, followed by hiring freezes.

"One hundred eighty or 200 people would show up for a test. They'd be waiting in line to turn in their application because they wanted the highest possible score on the list. Now we don't have that," Carroll said. 

"It's just been a steady decline over the past eight to 10 years, the number of people interested in a career in the fire service," said Douglas Stefko, South Euclid's fire chief.

Regardless of the reason for the shortage, jobs are opening and need to be filled. 

"A lot more people are coming up for retirement and those jobs need to be replaced," Stefko explained. 

Both fire chiefs told News 5 the leaders of all five communities hope the first-of-its-kind exam closes the gap that's making hiring qualified workers more difficult than ever. 

"This is a great opportunity to increase the applicant pool, increase minority recruitment. All the things we are really looking for in this job," Chief Carroll explained. 

For more on the exam, click here.