More than a quarter of those wearing Dallas Fire-Rescue uniforms are between the ages of 50 and 59 -- in other words, not too far from calling it quits. Indeed, Dallas Fire-Rescue higher-ups are concerned that in coming years the attrition rate amongst firefighters and paramedics will skyrocket -- to the point where, by 2011, the department will lose 100 workers a year, twice the current attrition rate. Which is why on Tuesday, Chief Eddie Burns will present to the Dallas City Council's Public Safety Committee a plan for filling the gaps left by vacancies and retirements -- a plan that would put trainees on trucks in six months rather than the standard 13 to 18 months necessary now.
The way Fire-Rescue operates, recruits go to the Fire Academy, then train as emergency medical technicians, then attend paramedic school -- all of which takes a year, year and a half. The new plan would expedite getting rookies on fire trucks, while at the same time allowing them to finish their advanced life-saving classes. (Rookies wouldn't be allowed on ambulance runs till they've finished EMT training.) Far as Fire-Rescue's concerned, there are myriad benefits to the plan, which would, for starters, cut down on overtime and allow "recruits [to] receive on the job training."
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Not coincidentally, on Tuesday the council will also hear about Fire-Rescue's 8-year-old Explorer Program, which "targets students from ages 14 to 20 ... who are interested in firefighting and emergency medical services." Bummer, though: "NO active firefighting activities at structure fires."