COLUMBUS, Ohio — Like within the Columbus Division of Police, the Columbus Division of Fire is seeing a big increase in retirements.
Columbus Fire Chief Jeffrey Happ retirements are up 40% so far this year.
To make sure you still get quick service, the city is relying more and more on suburban departments.
While the city has grown, the fire department hasn't.
“We've added 100,000 citizens in the City of Columbus and we've not added a single firefighter in that same time period to meet that demand,” Columbus Fire Union President Steve Stein said.
In 2000, there were 1,511 firefighters in the city. The city grew by more than 165,000 by 2019, while there were 1,565 firefighters in the department.
Last year there were nearly 18,000 calls where an outside department exclusively took a call for service in the City of Columbus.
“What we have become overly reliant upon is the notion of automatic response," Stein said. "That means even if a 911 call goes out in the City of Columbus, the dispatch center will send a suburban agency because they are set up to tax these suburban agencies over 40,000 times a year to handle these calls where we should have fire stations, but we don't."
Chief Happ says staffing levels are a concern.
“I reached out to the Mayor's office and they have increased my December class," he said.
There are two firefighter classes a year and the city has increased the next class in December by 15 to try to help the staffing levels.
In a statement, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said, "As our city has grown, we've improved EMS response to increase efficiencies and we opened the first new fire station in over a decade. Each year we evaluate staffing levels and balance our needs with limited resources, and this year is no different. We are balancing community needs on many fronts in the midst of a pandemic, and our 2022 budget will include significant investment in police and fire."