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Report: Mpls. Fire Dept. Working Well With Less, But Faces Challenges

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new comprehensive report is helping the Minneapolis Fire Department plan for its future. For the last year, Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) has taken a close look at all areas of the department.

One of the key recommendations from the study is to maintain adequate staffing. The department has dealt with job loss through attrition for several years and the report could help in the push for new hires.

For Minneapolis firefighters, lunchtime often comes with interruptions. Answering the call for help at a moment’s notice is part of the daily routine.

“We are a busy city,” said Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel.

However, for the last five years, the department has worked with less. It’s a combination of no new hires, retirements and layoffs. Last year, there were 18. Also, more retirements are slated for the near future.

“We’ve got no one really under the age of 30 on our department. We’ve got many many people over the age of 50. They’re going to reach retirement age fairly quickly,” said Fruetel.

“There will be a leadership vacuum as a lot of personnel transfer out to retirement,” said Kent Greene, the senior vice president of ESCI.

The report recommends maintaining adequate staffing, 94 firefighters a day. Right now, the city operates with 92, but the chief is asking to staff for 100.

“We push the limits right now as we are, with the numbers we’re at now. We’ll continue to do that, but there’s a cost to that,” said Joe Mattison, secretary of the Minneapolis Firefighters local 82.

For Mattison, the cost is a higher risk of injury. It’s a scenario that played out at a fire on Filmore Street when several firefighters fought heat exhaustion.

“We’re pushing it with less people and we’re pushing it hard and guys went down,” said Mattison.

Any job hiring would have to go through the budget process, which is still a few months away.

The firefighters union and the chief are asking for 30 more firefighters, with 10 new hires over the next three years.

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