Fayetteville Fire Department applies for grant to help with staffing shortage

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Running into a burning home to try to save a Vietnam veteran’s life, is all just part of the job for firefighters.

“I thank God for them that we have good people like them to risk their lives and come out,” said Janet McClain, the fire victim’s niece.

As they continue doing their jobs, Fayetteville firefighters are working overtime because they’re short staffed.

“It’s kind of scary,” Fayetteville Fire Chief Mike Hill said. “It poses a risk for the community, and for the firefighters themselves — not having sufficient staffing.”

“Over time, as we do more with less, eventually that catches up with us and that’s kind of where we’re at now,” said Fayetteville Fire Capt. Stephen Shakeshaft.

Shakeshaft helps hire and train new firefighters.

He explained how the staffing problem impacts calls.

“Rather than having a few fire trucks with four firefighters, we are sending more fire trucks with less firefighters,” Shakeshaft said. “So when there is a major incident, that’s leaving other parts of the city unprotected.”

Fayetteville City Council approved the fire department’s request this week to apply for a federal grant to help hire 18 more firefighters.

If they’re awarded the SAFER grant, and if the city votes to accept it, the department will get federal money to hire more firefighters.

The grant helps cover about 75 percent of the upfront costs.

Eventually the city would have to pay for the 18 positions.

In the long run, the department says having more firefighters on staff would cut down on overtime costs, and more importantly, make it safer for the first responders.

Shakeshaft says they’ve hired about 50 firefighters in the past year, partly because they lose other firefighters to departments that can pay them more.

“They’re very marketable coming from our agency, and we’ve had trouble keeping these folks,” Shakeshaft said.

Fayetteville officials should know in a few months if they’re approved for the grant.

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