Having lost about half of its sworn personnel over the last 10 years, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department is stepping up its recruitment efforts by, in part, targeting an unlikely group of people: female college athletes.
It’s one of the topics that will be addressed on Wednesday during the department’s retention and attrition update for fiscal year 2015. The update will be made before the city’s Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods committee.
Chief Kenneth Barnes will make the presentation that includes attrition figures to get your attention. Over the last 10 years, 473 San Diego’s city firefighters have either retired, resigned or were discharged. That leaves the majority of firefighters with less than 10 years of experience.
“It’s something that we are concerned about. We want to make sure that we have that experience level, that training that we need out in operations,” said Barnes.
Currently there are 46 vacancies, but Barnes will tell the committee he expects full staffing by fiscal year 2017. This fiscal year there have been three training academies, and three more will be held next fiscal year. It costs about $35,000 per recruit for training.
But retaining firefighters has been a challenge. The department says it’s concerned with an increasing loss of firefighters to other agencies. The reason is lower pay and benefits. A new firefighter, without overtime, will earn $42,496 a year.
“We are low; we are paid less than comparable agencies,” said Barnes.
In his presentation Barnes will detail how the department has stepped up its recent recruiting efforts, and that includes outreach to military personnel and women’s collegiate athletic programs.
“We’ve found there’s a good tie in with college athletes and being able to do our physically demanding job. We’re trying to outreach in areas that are underrepresented in females. College athletics is a good place to look for that,” said Barnes.