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TX Fire Chief Drops Prerequisites for Prospective Firefighters

TX Fire Chief Drops Prerequisites for Prospective Firefighters

Fort Worth Star-Telegram via YellowBrix

August 09, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX — In anticipation of what he calls a “retirement bubble,” Fire Chief Don Crowson has removed the requirement that prospective firefighters already be trained in emergency medical procedures.

Nearly 40 percent of the city’s sworn firefighters are eligible for retirement. So to open the doors to more applicants, the department has dropped all certification prerequisites for the first time in two decades. The city will now pay for firefighters to get their required EMT-Intermediate certification, which is just below paramedic status, as well as their firefighter certification, Crowson said.

“The retirement bubble is pending. Our organization is going to have a significant turnover in five years,” said Crowson, a 28-year veteran who replaced retired Chief Robin Paulsgrove in July. “We are going to need a fairly large pool of recruits to sustain that turnover.”

The department is accepting applications through Aug. 31 and will consider the first 2,000.

Applicants must pay a $50 entry testing fee, the first charged by a department in Dallas-Fort Worth. The department will use the fee to pay for the EMT-I certification.

The last time the Arlington Fire Department hired people without any certification requirements was in 1989. Finding candidates who already have EMT-Intermediate certification has been a challenge, and many have come from outside the city, Crowson said. Neither Fort Worth or Dallas have pre-certification requirements.

“We are now opening the doors a lot wider to our local community to apply for jobs here in Arlington,” Crowson said. “We can take average citizens and turn them into firefighters.”

Arlington dropped its requirement that applicants already be certified firefighters three years ago, when the city opened its own fire training school. With the latest change, Arlington received more applications last week than in all of 2009, officials said.

The top 250 applicants who score well on the general knowledge exam will move on to physical fitness testing. The department expects to hire 10 to 20 firefighters, Crowson said.

While no special training is required, he said, applicants need to be physically and mentally prepared to handle the challenges of the job, which include not only battling structure fires but also rescuing people and providing emergency medical assistance.

“No day is the same in firefighting. Its very interesting, but at times it can be hard work. It is labor intensive. It is dangerous,” Crowson said. “Its focus is on service to the community.”

Applicants must be able to pass several physical challenges, including running a mile and a half under 14 minutes, climbing up and down a 75-foot ladder in three minutes and rescuing a “victim” from a maze in full fire gear, Fire Lt. Pedro Arevalo said.

Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said he has no qualms about the department’s policy change.

“I think it’s a very positive step,” Cluck said. “We will train them ourselves and they will get their EMT-I [certification] before they go on the trucks. They still have to pass a lot of tests and rigorous training.”