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Wilmington Fire, Police recruit to fill vacancies

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Delaware Public Media

The Wilmington Fire Department has begun recruiting firefighters to fill vacant positions.

The Wilmington Fire Department is below 95% staffed. City Council passed a resolution last week authorizing the Department to commence the 40th fire academy.

The application period will open early next month.

The Wilmington Fire Department is budgeted for 156 uniformed positions. They’re currently down by seven.

But Kevin Turner, president of the Wilmington Fire Fighters Association, argues that even the authorized staffing level isn’t enough.

“Do I think the number 156 is sufficient to protect the people of Wilmington?” he said. “No, I do not.”

Turner says the city’s decades-long trend of staff cuts coupled with its policy of rolling bypasses— which temporarily take fire trucks offline—  contributed to the 2016 deaths of three firefighters battling the Canby Park fire.

“We want to see some changes in the fire department. And they haven’t been made,” he said. “We’re still operating the same way we did on Sept. 24, 2016, and that’s very dangerous. ”

Wilmington Fire Chief Mike Donohue was unavailable for an interview.

City officials say the vacancies are “due to retirements and other forms of attrition.”

Turner says the rate of retirements from the Fire Department has increased since the 2016 Canby Park fire.

“And the fact that the city failed to give necessary support to its firefighters directly after that incident,” he said.

 

The City, two former Mayors and two former Fire Chiefs are currently being sued by surviving firefighters and families of the three who died in the 2016 blaze—  for understaffing and the policy of rolling bypasses.

Turner says the department is still operating under unsafe policies. He adds the union is looking for a change in Fire Department leadership.

Applications for the 40th Wilmington fire academy will be accepted September 4th through October 12th. The opening date for the fire academy has yet to be announced.

The Wilmington Police Department is also understaffed—  by 15 officers— and is starting a training academy beginning in February.

Applications for the 99th Wilmington Police Academy will be accepted August 31 through October 19.

 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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