Saturday, May 25, 2002

Firefighter grads are final class until '04




By Jane Prendergast, jprendergast@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's newest firefighters report to work Sunday. They will probably be the last hired for more than a year.

        The 21 recruits — the department's 106th class — graduated Friday morning at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Among them was Chief Robert Wright's son, Robert II, who stood as his father pinned on his new badge.

        “It was very nice,” said the elder Wright, on the department since 1973 and chief almost five years. “Although I wasn't as good at pinning as some of the other people were.”

        Lt. Joe Arnold, recording secretary of the fire union, welcomed the new firefighters to their family of 800 brothers and sisters. Becoming probationary firefighters means the recruits' salaries jump Sunday to $37,000 a year, from the $28,000 per year rate for trainees.

        They're expected to be the last class of new hires until January 2004. Chief Wright said he doesn't think he needs an annual class that would begin this coming January because he doesn't anticipate seeing the 30 to 35 retirements the department usually gets each year.

        That's in part because of a new deferred retirement option plan. It allows firefighters to retire, put their retirement earnings in escrow and stay on, still earning their salaries.

        “We think people will stay around a little longer,” the chief said.

        The lack of new hires here comes in spite of calls nationally for more firefighters in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The International Association of Firefighters says two-thirds of the country's fire departments are understaffed.

       



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