Does South Burlington have a shortage of firefighters?

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 6:04 PM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The union representing South Burlington firefighters recently took to social media claiming staffing is down 30% and that crews are working long shifts to compensate. But city officials are disputing those claims. Later the firefighters assciation agreed that the math was inaccurate.

“Our concern is how long this has been going on and our concern is the number of hours that we are working above our regular 24-hour shift and what that does to the mental health of our firefighters,” said South Burlington Fire Capt. Micah Genzlinger, a member of the South Burlington Career Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 3671. Full staffing, per the collective bargaining, agreement is 30 firefighters. The union posted on Facebook claiming staffing was down 30%.

However, South Burlington City Manager Jessie Baker says that math is inaccurate and that they are only short five firefighters -- or 17%. She says there is one firefighter who is supposed to come back in August, one on medical leave, and three positions unfilled. She’s waiting to see if they can get federal COVID relief funds from the state to fund one open position. She’s also in the second round of interviews to fill the other two vacancies and hopes to hire for both jobs by mid-August. “Right now, our goal is to be at 30. We are currently at 27, so that’s a pretty good percentage. We have those two funded vacancies that we hope to make offers on later this month. We hope to be back up at that point very quickly,” Baker said.

“We probably won’t see the people that fill those vacancies as counting towards our minimum staffing until probably about November or December time frame,” Genzlinger said.

The firefighters union’s collective bargaining agreement goes until July 2022. Genzlinger said he wants to make sure the public knows they are not complaining about the long hours, they just want more assistance so they can be safe.

Baker says that there is no risk to public safety. “We have a plan to fill those two vacancies and to ensure not only to make sure our current officers are safe -- the residents receive that best service -- but I believe we’ve done that every day for the last two years as well,” she said.

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