Phoenix sees drop in qualified candidates for firefighter jobs

Posted: Updated:
Demay Bradley, 35, is training to become a firefighter (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Demay Bradley, 35, is training to become a firefighter (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
Larry Subervi, Phoenix Fire Dept. spokesman (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Larry Subervi, Phoenix Fire Dept. spokesman (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
The number of candidates for firefighter/paramedic jobs is dropping (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) The number of candidates for firefighter/paramedic jobs is dropping (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

There’s been a massive drop in the number of qualified firefighter and paramedic candidates in the Valley, and that could impact the kind of help residents receive in an emergency down the road.

According to data from the Phoenix Fire Department, the number of people who tested to become a firefighter in 2017 was around 1,000. This is a stark contrast from the 2,500 who tested in 2007.

"As appealing as it is to us, we still think we have the greatest job in the world, but for somebody who’s younger making that decision, it doesn’t appeal to them the same way it did," said Larry Subervi, public information officer at the Phoenix Fire Department and EMT instructor at Phoenix College.

The drop in firefighter recruits coincides with a drop in emergency medical technician classes offered around the Valley.  

On Monday morning, 35-year-old Demar Bradley was one of a handful of students at Phoenix College training to become an EMT.

"I want to know that I’ve left the world a little bit better than before I arrived," said Bradley. "I will be a paramedic, a licensed paramedic and hopefully growing into other areas, maybe a firefighter."

Bradley described the four month program as strenuous.

"It’s studying every day, at all hours of the night. You can’t skate by. There’s no way to skate by," said Bradley.

According to Subervi, the number of students enrolling in EMT classes across the Valley has dropped. Part of the reason has to do with the pay of the career.

"You have EMTs working for private ambulance companies that are making $11 to $14 an hour, which is what you can make at a fast food restaurant," said Subervi.

[RELATED: Arizona minimum wage about to go up]

Another factor has to do with the risks associated with the profession.

"We think about the dangers firefighters face, and it’s much more common now- the PTSD rates, as many as 20 percent for career firefighters, suicide rates four times the national average, cancer rates four times the national average," said Subervi.

With a dwindling pool of candidates willing to fill positions, Valley fire departments may eventually ask more crews to work longer shifts.

"If you had four firefighters show up to a call and they had been working multiple days in a row, then we’d have to worry about the fatigue factor of those firefighters. Right now, we’re able to manage that, but in terms of implications for citizens, if you’re calling 911, you want the freshest, most ready to go firefighters you could have," said Subervi.

Valley fire departments have not had agressive military-style recruitment campaigns in the past, but may consider ramping up those efforts.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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