Eastern Carolina fire department deals with staffing shortages

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 7:40 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says 47 million Americans quit their jobs last year.

Although many people have returned to the workforce, some positions aren’t seeing as much interest as usual.

Officials with the Jacksonville fire department say the department has seen fewer applications coming across its desk this year compared to last year.

“Usually we get a couple hundred applicants. And we’ve gotten in the 70′s,” Jacksonville Fire Deputy Chief Amy Procopio said.

“Looking at 2018, 2019, and the beginning of 2020, employers were starting to feel somewhat of a pinch,” NCWorks’ Lindsay Gress added.

Employment experts say—at their lowest—unemployment rates were nearly at 14% in Onslow County at the start of the pandemic.

That number has recently moved to 4%, though Gress explains that the organization has noticed a shift in the county’s workforce.

“Right now our top two employers that have the most jobs posted are our school, Onslow County school district, and Onslow Memorial Hospital. So, education and health care is huge,” Gress said.

Procopio says there are times when multiple EMS calls are going on at the same time.

The fire department says it receives an estimated average of 20 calls to respond to a day while assisting other agencies.

“Police organizations, fire organizations, the military. Everybody has been struggling with applicants for this type of work. And we’re all kind of pulling from the same type of applicant pool, so it has been a challenge,” Procopio said.

The fire department’s application process will close on Aug. 10th for this year’s hiring process.

The Jacksonville fire department says applicants don’t need to have firefighter or EMT certification, but applicants with certification are preferred.

The certification courses can take as long as a year to complete.

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