LFD battling firefighter shortage

LFD recruits (WSET).

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- The Lynchburg Fire Department (LFD) reports that it needs replacements. Officials say getting the younger folks fired up to apply for jobs is a big challenge.

"I think every kid you ever talk to says, 'I want to be a firefighter. I want to be a firefighter,' and I grew up and got to be a firefighter and it is a great job," said Lynchburg firefighter, Steve Ripley.

LFD recruits are part of an 18-week firefighter academy to fill 10 vacancies in the department.

Some recruits are fulfilling their dream of becoming a firefighter. "I really enjoy helping others that much. I really do gain a lot of satisfaction from helping somebody in need, when they do need it," said Jeremy Hodnett, an LFD recruit.

Fire officials say the positions can't be filled quick enough; and that can have dire consequences. "If we have vacancies, we can't let people off to go to training to keep our skills up," explained Ripley. "If we don't keep our skills up we can get hurt injured or killed."

It's a re-occurring problem for the department. They can only fill vacancies as they open, which doesn't allow them to plan ahead to fill retiree spots before they leave.

According to fire officials, that usually happens around July and December.

Ripley says the problem is getting younger people to apply for the jobs. He says some are not willing to deal with the sacrifices.

"It's a snowball effect once we start losing people," said Ripley "This is not a get rich fast job at all. It's a lot of work with a decent paycheck."

And recruits admit it's not for everyone. "When you come here and you start doing things, either this job is for you or you need to get out of it," said recruit Amanda Hesson.

But everyone ABC13 spoke with says the reward of the job is worth the sacrifice. "You get past that because you love the job and you want to help and serve your community." explained Hesson.

The starting salary for the LFD is about $36,000. Danville starts around $33,000 and Roanoke about $37,000.

Both Danville and Roanoke fire departments says they lose people to retirements but wouldn't call it a shortage for them.

If you would like more information on how to apply to LFD, click here.

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