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Wilmington Fire Department seeks to fill vacancies

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Delaware Public Media

The City of Wilmington is recruiting its next class of firefighters.

The 41st Wilmington Fire Academy will likely start this spring and end in August. Under city code, the fire department calls for a new academy once it falls below 95 percent staffing. The Department is currently at 145 personnel out of an authorized strength of 156, according to the City of Wilmington. 

Wilmington Fire Chief Michael Donohue says the vacancies are a result of retirements. 

“Right now, we’re looking at [an Academy class size of] 17,” said Donohue. “But with additional retirements, the class could reach 20, 22.”

Recruits must be U.S. citizens and have a GED or high school diploma and a valid driver’s license. A City of Wilmington residency requirement kicks in six months after hire.

“Somebody 18 years old, good character, good physical condition, and that’s basically it, that wants to serve the community and be a firefighter,”Donohue said of the ideal candidate. 

The recruitment process includes a physical agility test, a written test, oral interviews and a drug screening. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 30. 

Donohue emphasizes the stability of a career at the Wilmington Fire Department, which includes a pension and benefits. Base pay for a Wilmington firefighter is around $45,000. After a probationary period ends, firefighters make just over $50,000, and after six years, around $73,500. 

“Most of the firemen in the country are volunteers,” said Donohue. “You’re being paid to do what most people do volunteering.”

The Wilmington firefighters’ union has clashed with the city in recent years over staffing levels, a practice of temporarily taking fire companies out of commission to cut costs, and a new firefighter shift structure the City imposed this summer.   

Three Wilmington firefighters died as a result of a high-profile arson in 2016. 

 

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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