Eau Claire Fire & Rescue looking to hire even more firefighters

Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 9:47 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Eau Claire Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Robert Haller is contending with employee turnover.

Between the retirements and others leaving the force, Haller said a recently acquired grant should further help with the staffing shortage.

This comes as they look to hire 6 new firefighters after Eau Claire voters helped pass a public safety referendum last year. But, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Department of Homeland Security allows for even more.

“And this one we put in for six firefighters at a cost of just over $2 million. This funding will keep us afloat basically for the next three years,” said Deputy Chief Haller.

The 12 new hires should keep the number of staff at around 96. Haller said the gran money will help offset some costs from the force being stretched thin.

“Last year it costs us about $700,000 in overtime alone just to maintain the staffing. The city is growing at such an expanded rate and our calls for service have only been going up,” said Deputy Chief Haller. “This is pretty much the federal government saying, yes, you do need this money because your staffing is at the bare minimum for the size of the city that you have.”

Tate Roselius is one of the current firefighters and paramedics working out of Station 6. He said the job has evolved along with the city, and would like to see the department be able to follow suit in that evolution.

“I think that this is a great opportunity for the community. We are ever grateful for having the community pass the public safety referendum. We certainly need it,” said Roselius. “And any one of us would agree. In the community, we’re trying to keep everybody safe and do what’s best for them. And and by having additional persons, I believe that we can achieve a much better, higher quality of service.”

Haller said the grant, also known as the SAFER grant, is difficult to obtain. It is well sought after by municipalities across the nation. With that hurdle cleared now, it is up to the Eau Claire City Council to approved the use of the funds.

“We’re hoping, obviously, that they do accept it. All they got to do is vote yes. But, you know, it’s there’s a lot of things to consider,” said Deputy Chief Haller.

WEAU did reach out to Council President Emily Berge, but did not hear back.

The city council will vote on the matter Tuesday.