The Turlock Fire Department has hired five new firefighters to fill in vacancies left from departures over the last year.
The salary and benefits of one firefighter comes to about $117,000, but these firefighters were hired to fill vacancies that were already accounted for in the department’s budget, explained Interim Turlock Fire Chief Gary Carlson.
These new hires bring the fire department’s staffing back up to the staffing levels that were allocated in the 2020-2021 budget.
Currently, federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security act is helping the fire department operate at normal staffing levels at each of the four stations in Turlock.
The fire department currently has 42 budgeted line positions, which covers battalion chiefs, captains, engineers and firefighters, and two budgeted chief officer positions - operations chief and fire marshal. That allows for three personnel at each station per shift.
Previously, the budget allowed for 48-line positions and four chief officer positions. That allowed for each shift at the four stations to have three personnel and one battalion chief.
At the highest point, the fire department had 53 sworn personnel.
“The city council will, by way of the budget process, dictate what the level of fire staffing will be going forward,” Carlson said.
The National Fire Protection Association states that a minimum of four firefighters are required to make an interior attack on a fire.
“While two personnel are inside the structure with suppression efforts, a minimum of two back-up firefighters are required outside, in the stand-by mode,” the association stated.
Previously when staffing was dropped from 13 per shift to 12 per shift, the fire department had to take one engine out of service and utilize a limited response vehicle. Because of C.A.R.E.S. the fire department has not had to use this since March 2020.
The five new firefighters — Lance Bickle, Amos Sawyer, Zach Copland, Seth Adams, and Tylor Byrd — are currently partaking in a rigorous and extensive six-week training period. It’s expected they will be assigned to a station and starting shift work in mid-April.
Carlson said all five have some experience in firefighting from volunteer experience to serving with Cal Fire.
“Although they are all fairly young and new, they are enthusiastic and ready to prove themselves,” Carlson said.