As a first step toward reducing the overtime hours that have wracked up millions of dollars on the Fire Department budget each year, the department now has three new firefighters on board, filling out GFD roster after their hiring this spring.
The department, which has long subsisted on four crews of 17 or 18, last week signed a contract to restructure to three groups of 24 firefighters, with each firefighter working more base hours, starting July 2014, in an effort to cut the plaguing overtime hours.
“It’s getting the staffing levels back where they need to be, even if we didn’t do this,” Fire Chief Eric Smith said Wednesday.
The department hired three new firefighters about four weeks ago. As Massachusetts firefighters must be hired by a department before they can attend firefighter training at the academy, unlike most other states, Smith said. Gloucester’s newest firefighters received their shift assignments and will work until their fire academy training in November.
“We had a lot of great applicants that came along with great credentials, but they don’t have the fire academy training,” Smith said.
Our three newest recruits hold some of those strong resumes, two air force veterans and one experienced EMT.
Andrew Pierce, a 29-year-old Gloucester native, recently earned an associates degree in fire science at North Shore Community College. Pierce had joined the Air Force after high school and spent four years in active duty, then returned to the north shore and working at a few different jobs, before deciding to follow his aspirations of becoming a firefighter.
“I’ve been wanting to do it for a while now, and it was just putting the right steps in motion to do it,” Pierce said. “So far I love it. There’s a lot to learn.”
Pierce had become acquainted with another new hire, 25-year-old David Elwell, when the two — both born and raised in Gloucester— crossed paths on duty in Iraq. Elwell too had joined the Air Force after high school, spending six years as a firefighter in flight lines.