WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Many Wichita Falls leaders were concerned a change to firefighter promotional eligibility would hurt recruitment and retention. But early indications show that is not the case. The civil service law for promotions has been two years for a long time.
The resolution passed by councilors changed it to where you have to wait five years before you are eligible to be promoted to Fire Equipment Operator, the first line of supervisor. So far the department is happy with the change, and their numbers at their Vernon College Academy.
"We were hoping for 10 or 12 students, and we're looking at like 25 right now," Assistant Fire Chief, Donald Hughes said. "So that's good for the college. And it's setting up a good pool for us to hire from."
"When most people are coming to apply for this job, they're not thinking that far ahead," Chief Hughes added.
The fire department takes pride in having the best of the best daily inside their fire houses.
"That's what we always strive for," Chief Hughes said. "To have the best training and work with these young guys. And mold them the way we want them to be."
Chief Hughes said it is still too early to know what long-term effects the change will have on the department.
"Until we have a class and we get 4 or 5 years down the road, we won't know whether it will hurt us or not," he said.
Part of the reason it was passed was because of the Sunset Provision, a 60-day bailout clause in case the city saw a negative impact. It was never used. Now, Chief Hughes is excited to see how it impacts his firefighter's personal development.
"Sometimes it just looks like we're running crazy, just going in and attacking the fire," he said. "But there's thought processes that go through all of that."
The change only applies to firefighters that joined the force after January 17. Firefighters who have been with the department since the beginning of 2017 are grandfathered in and do not have to follow the change. After the first promotion, firefighters will be eligible for future promotions every two years.
For comparison, firefighters in Frisco only have to be with the department four years before their first promotions. In Denton, it is three years. It's even shorter in Lubbock, where it is two years.