Press Release 2

Danville Firefighters Local 429.

 
 
 

Press Release 2

 

Danville Fire Department seeing exodus of young firefighters

DANVILLE — This past spring, a 34-year-old Danville firefighter left for a job with a department in the Indianapolis area.

That's become a trend in recent years, according to those still with the department who said there's been an exodus of younger members leaving for departments in other cities — or for other jobs entirely. One became a police officer, for instance.

As a result, Danville's department currently has no firefighters under age 30, according to Tim McFadden, spokesman for Danville Firefighters Local 429.

The average age of the department's 40 firefighters is 44, well above the U.S. average. Across the country, the average age is 38.8 for male firefighters and 39.1 for females, according to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

McFadden said the department did some research and learned this is the first time in its history that it does not have a firefighter under age 30.

And there haven't been any new hires since November 2013, he said.

Younger firefighters have been hired in the past, but they've eventually left for other jobs "due to the uncertainty in our department the last several years," McFadden said, adding that the fear of layoffs has been a major factor, coupled with the fact that the downsizing that has occurred through attrition over the last two decades has increased the workload for everyone, requiring a lot of overtime. The city has budgeted $600,000 for overtime this year.

"It's a physically and mentally demanding job," McFadden said. "We are very shorthanded."

In 2000, the city had more than 60 firefighters. By 2009, it was down to around 50. Earlier this year, it was 41 — until the most recent resignation.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said Tuesday that he does not believe that position will be filled.

The mayor has been vocal and proactive in the past decade about downsizing the fire department to slow the city's increasing costs, particularly pensions. In March of last year, he proposed laying off 16 of 42 Danville firefighters, after the city lost an arbitration decision on contract issues that would have reduced the number of firefighters required per shift.

Those layoffs did not happen, and since then, the Danville City Council approved closing one of the city's four fire stations to save money, as well as a long-term revenue-boosting plan in the form of a public-safety fee charged to all properties in the city, to help reduce the city's pension debt. And the union renegotiated with the city, offering some concessions, like reducing the minimum number of firefighters that must be on duty per shift from 13 to 12 and lowering the base salary for an entry-level firefighter.

According to Eisenhauer, the average base salary for the department's 40 firefighters, which includes assistant chiefs, captains and lieutenants, is $74,939.

Firefighters are hoping the city will get a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to hire six new firefighters. The grant would cover — for two years — 75 percent of the base salary, excluding overtime, along with standard benefits for each one. In the third year, that amount would decline to 35 percent. Starting in the fourth year, the city would be responsible for all costs, including pensions.

"We're pretty optimistic," McFadden said of the department's chances of getting the FEMA grant. Firefighters anticipate getting word this month, but aldermen would have to approve accepting the funding

"We think it's a win-win for everybody," McFadden said. "And it will help us get a little bit younger and get us some much-needed help."

According to firefighters with Local 429, six new recruits would mean 15 firefighters per shift, so all earned leave time would be covered with on-duty personnel rather than calling in others for overtime. And with the already-reduced manpower requirements, overtime costs would be greatly reduced, to about $100,000 a year rather than the $600,000 currently budgeted.

The manpower issue has even led to the cancellation this summer of a popular community event, the annual Bravest V. Finest charity softball series played at Danville Stadium by wounded military veterans and teams from Danville's fire and police departments.

McFadden said a committee of firefighters and police officers made the difficult decision not to hold the event, which has raised thousands of dollars for local charity causes over its 14-year run.

"It almost didn't happen last year," said McFadden, explaining that the fire department had only seven members on its roster then, so the police department filled out the rest of its team.

That's a big part of it, manpower," McFadden said, explaining that a big one-day event like that also takes months and months of preparation. "And police are very stretched to their limits with all that's going on in Danville."

 

 

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Members International Association of Fire Fighters & Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois AFL-CIO.

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Danville Firefighter Local 429's Annual Poker Run.

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A proud history of protecting the citizens of Danville, IL.

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