Richmond Hill Fire Chief Ralph Catlett planned to ask City Council for two additional firefighter positions in next year’s budget.
With his department currently down three firefighters, Catlett moved up the request.
Richmond Hill City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved adding two firefighters to the RHFD, which Catlett said has been “working short for the past three or four months.”
Firefighters have been working double-time to cover shifts, Catlett told council members, after two firefighters were injured on the job and another was called up to active duty in the Air Force Reserve.
“It’s just gotten to a point we just can’t do that anymore,” Catlett said. “They’re spending more time at the fire station than they are at home, and I’m afraid we’re going to get to a point to where they’re going to get burned out.”
Adding the two firefighters will cost the city $35,000 to $40,000 for the rest of this year, according to Catlett. The positions then will be incorporated into next year’s budget, he said.
Catlett already knows who he wants to fill the positions, which are effective Aug. 31. In anticipation of City Council approving his request, Catlett advertised the jobs, interviewed candidates and chose two finalists — one of whom has been working as an RHFD volunteer firefighter.
“We have two people waiting and ready to go online that are certified firefighters,” Catlett said.
One firefighter was hurt on the job in April and a second was injured in June, according to Catlett. Both suffered shoulder injuries — one while lifting a stretcher and the other while pulling a piece of equipment out of a truck.
“Just freak accidents,” Catlett said.
With one of the firefighters having just undergone shoulder surgery and the other soon to have surgery, their timetable to be back at work is unknown, Catlett said. He added that the firefighter in the Air Force Reserve is expected to return to the RHFD at the end of this month, but that could change.
The fire chief said City Council has been working with him to anticipate the fire department’s staffing needs to meet Richmond Hill’s expected growth. Council already had projected adding two firefighting positions in each of the next three years, he said.
“This is just getting them four months early,” Catlett said. “An early Christmas present.”