RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Raleigh Fire Department is currently dealing with a shortage.

Raleigh’s Assistant Chief for Professional Development, Ian Toms, said it currently has 67 vacancies within the department but anticipates that number to grow to 71 as other firefighters get ready to retire.

Toms said the fire department will have 55 people graduate from their Fire Academy by the new year, but it’s not enough to fill the number of open positions.

Starting on Friday, Toms said the fire department started its lateral transfer program to help fill some of the vacancies quickly.

Through August 12, certified firefighters who have two years of experience can fill out an application. Toms said they are increasing their starting salary to $49,369 and offering an additional $4,000 signing bonus.

“We’re bringing this second group in to essentially make sure we have full staffing across the city,” Toms said.

Toms said the staffing shortage has been taxing for firefighters, but it hasn’t impacted their service.

“What that does is, it forces our guys, instead of having that fourth person to grab the hose or pull the stretcher or help cut that person out of the car…what we need is that extra set of hands,” Toms said.

Toms said he hasn’t seen a firefighter shortage like this since he joined the department 25 years ago.

He said the shortage isn’t just an issue for their department, but it’s also a problem for fire departments across the nation.

“Our business is one that we can’t afford to fail, so for us the staffing is critical.”

The Raleigh Fire Department said it has lost some of their own firefighters to other fire departments that have hired lateral transfers.

Toms said the hiring process has become competitive but also necessary.

“We don’t want to rob from them, however, we’ve reached a point where business is business and we do need to bring people in,” Toms said. “I don’t know if this is the simplest, but it’s the quickest way for us to get certified people that we can put in here and put on the trucks quickly.”

With the boost to incoming pay, Toms said the city and its administration have worked to ensure they can also adjust and increase salaries for their current employees. Toms hopes they are able to fill the multiple vacancies by next July.

The minimum qualifications for lateral transfer firefighters are:

  • High school diploma or equivalent;
  • At least 19 years old;
  • Currently employed as a full-time, paid firefighter with a minimum of two years of continuous service;
  • NC EMT-Basic or national registry EMT or be eligible for reciprocity;
  • NC Firefighter I and II* (2013 edition) or NC Firefighter* (2019 edition);
  • NC Hazardous Materials Level 1 Responder*;
  • *Out-of-state certifications must be accredited by either IFSAC or Pro-Board.