BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — A shortage of firefighters, police and EMS personnel is plaguing the nation including Bloomington.
The city of Bloomington fire department responded to nearly 50 calls Monday alone all while being short-staffed.
Bloomington’s fire department said busier days are becoming the norm and on average the number of calls is growing 19% a year.
“We used to be used to days where we had 25-30 calls and now we’re averaging that 40, 41, or 42 a day,” said fire chief Eric West.
In 2021, firefighters responded to nearly 13,000 calls, a number that’s been increasing since 2015. West said 2021’s number is partially due to two major weather events.
“The first of the year we had an ice storm which I think generated around 300 calls over three days and then rain event in July which created about 150 calls over two days,” West said.
Chief West said while calls keep increasing adding recruits to the ranks continues to be another issue.
“Back when I came on the department, you know you’re looking at 300 or 400 applicants. Currently, to date, we have 24-25, so we are struggling,” West said.
West said BFD is short about 10 firefighters at the moment and many are working overtime to cover shifts. The department hopes to bring that number closer to zero in the coming months.
Recruiting has also been an issue for local police departments including Bloomington’s. This year the department hired 10 people compared to a total of eight last year.
“Chief Simington set a goal of 22 for the year, it’s looking like we’re going to hit that goal so I would say recruiting has improved to where we’ve actually doubled the amount we hired last year,” said public information officer Brandt Parsley.
Officer Parsley said the more they hire this year means less to replace in 2023 as officers retire.
“Obviously we like to be at maximum staff; we’re getting close, but unfortunately it’s kind of you get close, and then officers reach their time to retire,” Parsley said.