Texas Department's Staffing Levels Drop

Dec. 5, 2008
El Paso's fire department tries to find ways of hiring more firefighters in a cost efficient way.

EL PASO, Texas --

With El Paso growing fast, but budgets holding steady, the city's fire department tries to find ways of hiring more firefighters in a cost efficient way.

Recruits training at the El Paso Fire Academy are part of a class at the El Paso Community College.

"It seems like an interesting career because you get to help out people," said Diana Ronquillo, a recruit.

This is Ronquillo's third semester. She will graduate as something called a pre-certified firefighter.

"These firefighters would be pre-certified firefighters. They're training would only take a couple of months and we would be able to put those firefighters in service," said El Paso Fire Lt. Mario Hernandez.

Pre-certified firefighters are ideal for the El Paso Fire Department because they allow the department to save some money compared to having a traditional 6-month class conducted by the fire department.

"It's quicker for us and it's cost effective because we don't have to spend that much time training these firefighters because they're already pre-certified. And of course, it's cost efficient for the department and the public," said Hernandez.

Hernandez said more firefighters would be ideal too, but it would cost taxpayers more money to hire them. So, these soon-to-be pre-certified firefighters, like Diana, may have to wait months before getting an opportunity to apply for the El Paso Fire Department, because of its current tight budget.

"We're keeping an eye on the firefighters that are leaving. We don't want to bring staffing level any lower than it has to be," said Hernandez.

If staffing levels fall even more at the fire department, it could affect the Insurance Service Office rating. That would mean home owners would pay higher rates for their home insurance.

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