CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Charleston Fire Department says their personnel gap created during the pandemic is finally starting to get caught up. A year ago, the city Fire Department hired 21 new firefighters and in recent months they brought on a new hiring class of 24.

Prior to the pandemic, the fire department’s classes were around 10 to 12 recruits. But during 2020 through 2022 they were unable to stage any classes and Captain David Hodges said it created a void which caused a lot of concern.

“It really scared s because we knew we were an older department at the time and we were going to see a lot of retirements,” he explained.

The anticipated attrition caused much larger classes than normal for a few years, bug Hodges believed they were getting caught up and eventually will go back to those smaller classes.

“With anticipation of retirement next June, we’re going to see a large number of retirements, but that will be easily managed. I think you’ll see going forward hiring groups of 10 or less,” he said.

When compared to like sized cities across the nation, Charleston fire fighting jobs stand up strong. Hodges said they are constantly comparing the conditions in similar cities like Rogers, Arkansas which is almost identical int eh size and duty schedule to Charleston.

“WE do a great job in Charleston and city leadership does also for us. The city leadership does a great job with pay and benefits and this is a great place to pursue a career as a firefighters.,” he said.

Hodges added the training in Charleston is in some cases even better than other cities across the country and it attracts high level candidates who want a career in the fire service.

“We’re very well trained. We maintain our own ambulance service and we require everybody to be a paramedic which is huge,” he said.

Hodges said there had been some attrition from the 2023 class. One member left to become a missionary and two others left for other reasons, but the rest are still on board and he expected about the same level of completion for the most recently hired class.

“The other folks are here, they finished their probationary period and they’ve enrolled in the paramedic program and their training continues on,” he said.

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