When battalion chief Shane Gardner decided to join the Long Lake Fire Department (LLFD) back in 2000, he drove to the station, interviewed with the chief and was able to start training soon after. Since then, the LLFD have changed their application process.
“Back then, the process was a lot easier. There wasn’t as much red tape involved. Back then, if you lived in a certain proximity and if you like them and they liked you, you were given a chance,” he said.
The LLFD has approximately 32 current firefighters; however, the department is equipped to fully staff 50 firefighters. According to Gardner, the department has never been fully staffed since his time there began. Gardner has been apart of the department’s recruitment efforts for eight years and recently started a recruitment committee, which is made up of firefighters and spouses who try to get as creative as possible to attract new personal and retain current membership.
The department’s recruitment efforts have changed throughout the years. While you could still drive to the department to get information about becoming a new firefighter, the department has put time in shaking hands and discovering ways to hire quality candidates.
“Some of our best recruiting occurs when we are interacting and “shaking hands” with the people in our communities. But recruiting has certainly been more difficult recently and we have started developing a more aggressive, multifaceted approach to our recruiting efforts,” Lt. Scott Spinks said.
Throughout the year the department hosts events where they set up a spot for those in the community to get additional information. The next event will be during Fire Prevention Week in October. Gardner said the committee is also working on an incentive program within the department. Details are not currently set; however, if a current firefighter recruits a friend or neighbor and that person gets hired, that firefighter would get something.
“We don’t know what that something is yet but we’re trying to get creative with incentivizing people for recruitment referrals,” Gardner said.
Interested recruits also have more red tape to pass through today than a few years ago in order to begin their training. After a man or woman sends in their application, they would get called in for an interview in front of a panel of three captains, chiefs and/or lieutenants. The interview is comprised of 15 questions each worth a certain amount of points. The interviewee has to have a score of at least 69 points in order to move to the next stage.
Once a candidate passes the interview, a background check is requested as well as fingerprints. According to Gardner, any interested candidate from another state will have to go through a federal background check. If the background check comes back clear, there is a psychological exam that can last up to eight hours. Candidates will then have to pass a rigorous physical exam that mimics the experience of being on call.
The department currently has four new recruits awaiting the results of their background check. Having a hiring process with more red tape weeds out the recruits who signed up on impulse Gardner said.
“The volume for call is more than what it used to be. It’s not just a boys club. It’s a professional organization of men and women alike. We respond to medical so it’s not just getting a fire certification but a medical certification. It’s building relationships with police officers because we work with them too...The demand is higher than it used to be...Just because we have only 32 members, the people that are here are invested and engaged,” he said.