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2023 Resolution: More Firefighter and EMT Recruitment

“When I arrived in June, each shift was down seven members just to get to the minimum level needed each day,” Glynn County Fire Chief Vincent DiCristofalo said at a roundtable discussion with county officials on Tuesday.

Four firefighters in full gear silhouetted in front of large flames.
(TNS) - Firefighter and EMT recruitment and retention are primary goals in 2023 for Glynn County, Ga., Fire Chief Vincent DiCristofalo.

The department will also begin the accreditation process and start to see the funding collected to eventually build a new fire station and renovate another.

DiCristofalo, named fire chief in December, said when he started with the GCFD in June 2022 as assistant chief, the department was 21 people short of being fully staffed. Since then, he said GCFD leadership has worked with Glynn County Human Resources to bring on another 12 people to fill open positions, leaving the department still nine short of being fully staffed.

“When I arrived in June, each shift was down seven members just to get to the minimum level needed each day,” DiCristofalo said at a roundtable discussion with county officials on Tuesday. “That was because of COVID and loss of the SAFER grant the department had previous to that time.”

The SAFER Grant, or Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant, was created to directly fund fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to increase or maintain the number of trained, frontline firefighters. It is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

Online records provided by FEMA, show that Glynn County received a little more than $1.2 million in 2017 to hire firefighters and EMT personnel.

DiCristofalo said that while many of those hires are still around today, other firefighters left during the pandemic.

Replacing them in a timely fashion was difficult, also something he blames on COVID.

“As others left the department, there wasn’t as much interest in joining the department during COVID time,” he said. “That caused a huge burden on the members who were here with nonstop overtime. They couldn’t get home.”

With some repositioning of personnel, the department was able to alleviate some of the overtime. Bringing in 12 new firefighters has helped even more.

Still, DiCristofalo said recruiting new firefighters is among the most important tasks for 2023.

The Glynn County Fire Department in 2022 responded to 18,363 total incidents, an average of 50 calls per day and 1,531 per month.

The busiest ambulance and fire engine both operated out of the Ballard Fire Station, Fire Station 1, near the intersection of Community Road and Old Jesup Road. The busiest ambulance in the department, Rescue 1, responded to 4,570 incidents in 2022. The busiest engine, Engine 1, responded to 3,386 incidents in 2022.

Roughly a third of all calls were in the area served by Fire Station 1, which DiCristofalo said encompasses an area from Blythe Island to U.S. 17. The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax passed by Glynn County voters in November is set to cover the costs of a new fire station in the area near the end of Altama Avenue and the Glynn Place Mall to help alleviate the strain on Fire Station 1.

County Manager Bill Fallon said SPLOST income, which began collection Jan. 1, will also pay for necessary renovations and updates to the fire station at Brunswick Golden Isles Airport to improve fire service in the area.

“We want to get started on these,” Fallon said. “We do need these fire stations, especially the new one.”

Fallon will also help DiCristofalo through the accreditation process, something DiCristofalo said will likely take longer than a year. Accreditation through the Center for Public Safety Excellence using the Commission on Fire Accreditation International model shows the department’s policies, procedures and actions are up to the highest national standards of professional service, DiCristofalo said.

“What that will do for us is show that we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

Fallon agrees.

“It really comes down to being a professionalized department,” he said.

©2023 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.