CINCINNATI, OH – The on-duty death of firefighter Daryl Gordon has spurred more than double the expected number of firefighters to resign in recent months.
Gordon died while trying to save lives amid a Madisonville fire on March 26.The retirements are hiking the Cincinnati Fire Department’s already over-budget overtime costs, said Fire Chief Richard Braun on Monday. The department budgeted $1.6 million for overtime this fiscal year, which ends June 30, but has already spent $2 million and is projecting a year-end cost of $4 million.
“That has changed the dynamics in the department,” Braun told the City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, noting he recently bid farewell to 17-year and 25-year veterans. The department expected 11 retirements this year but has already seen 17 retirements and expects 6 more by the end of the fiscal year.
“Some are just feeling the pressures of the job and leaving early; some, their families are giving the pressure,” he said. “But this correlates in.”
A new 6-month 40-member recruit class will start in June, and Braun said the department will need to immediately start another recruit class, which will need to be paid for in the next city budget.Braun said he expects 54 retirements in 2018, the result of a recruitment class hitting its 30-year mark.
The fire department has an authorized staffing level at 841 members, but it currently employs 820.
The fire department is seeking to avoid brownouts, during which the department idles equipment when it can’t pay for staff — a move that jeopardizes response times. To keep up staff levels, Braun said he is accelerating firefighters out of temporary light-duty roles, cracking down on chronic use of sick leave and picking up a member who is working in the department’s paramedicine program and deploying him on the streets, paid for by spot overtime.
“These are not options,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn. “We have to be, as a Council, be willing to make the policy decision that we’re going to move forward next year budgeting for a January 2018 class to begin.”