WFFD over 17-18 budget due to firefighter shortage

WFFD over 17-18 budget due to firefighter shortage

WICHITA FALLS, TX (TNN) - The Wichita Falls Fire department exceeded its 2017-2018 budget by about $219,000 and most of it was due to firefighters like Blake Haisten having to pick up extra shifts.

"We had a busy year and we were short so that made people have to work overtime or extra to fill the positions," said Haisten.

Assistant Fire Chief Donald Hughes said the overtime also comes from their requirement of having 41 firefighters on duty everyday.

"So when we're twelve people short then we have to fill in for them," said Asst. Chief Hughes.

Scheduling vacation and holidays also made things difficult for them.

"I try to keep the shortages spread over the three different shifts to where its not one shift having to hire back more than the other, but right now we have seven guys on extended sick leave due to injuries or illness and so there is one shift that's having to hire back on a regular basis," said Asst. Chief Hughes.

Even though last year firefighters were sent to assist in California wildfires, Asst. Chief Hughes said deployments for wildland responses did not add to their budget because the city is fully reimbursed.

"It gives the guys here a chance to work back and we have no issues with that. The guys are ready and they are always willing to work," said Asst. Chief Hughes. "It's 100 percent payback so they reimburse us totally for our time and whoever is filling in for our people that are gone."

Haisten said when positions needed to be filled things weren't so bad because everyone worked as a team.

“Everybody around this department decided to at least do their part,” said Haisten. “We {will} work the overtime because it might be saving somebody from having to work the overtime or get mandatory work when they might have something going on.”

Additional overtime expenses came from their new fire academy at Vernon College.

The academy is about two months longer than their former in-house academy.

However, WFFD officials support this new change because it's helping them save about $150,000 compared to the former in-house academy.

Out of 120 people who recently took the entrance exam, five of them were hired and the rest will start their academy next month.

All in hopes that they will fill some of those empty spots.

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