Updated: February 23rd, 10:36 PM EST By Desiree Montilla
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — Firefighters at the Charlottesville Fire Department are working longer shifts to fill a staffing gap they say the city will not help them fill.
Greg Wright, president of the Charlottesville Professional Firefighters Association, said Fire Medic 1 at the Ridge Street Fire Station can’t run 24 hours a day because of how short-staffed it is. Wright said the ambulance at the Fontaine Avenue Fire Station runs 24 hours a day, but the one at Ridge Street is only operational Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To fill those shifts, Wright said most of their employees work overtime shifts.
“About 90 percent of the time, we’re staffing Fire Medic 1 with overtime shifts,” Wright said. “That’s an additional 12 hours of overtime per day, per person to an ALS firefighter and BLS firefighter. That pushes us into 24-hour shifts, which turn into 48-hour shifts, and turn into 72-hour shifts. It’s a huge stress on the organization and stress on the individuals as well.”
To close the staffing gap, Wright said they need funding for nine positions. “This is our single highest priority, from the labor group to the department, to ensure city of Charlottesville, size and density, has at least two medic level transport units committed to the city 24 hours a day and 365 days a year,” he said.
The Charlottesville Professional Firefighters Association has been documenting the challenges it’s facing with the staffing shortage on its Facebook page. Wright hopes the city will include funding for these positions so they can fulfill their service to the Charlottesville community. “The single most important thing for the city leaders to know is how critical this is to the city’s well being,” Wright said. “We provide services to the university, to the city, to our most at-risk communities. It should be their highest priority as well as providing around-the-clock medic level coverage and transport to all their citizens.”
City Councilor Michael Payne responded to a request for comment. He said the city council has not yet received a draft budget and it hasn’t received any information about funding for each department to see what the priorities will be.