PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – The Peoria Fire Department is adding two new faces to its team, while addressing staffing issues and solutions in the process.

Recruitment and retention have been two big priorities for the department. On Friday, PFD held a badge pinning and swearing-in ceremony for two additions to the department who Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger called “rock stars.”

“This is extremely unique for us,” Sollberger said. “We had two firefighters fall on our laps that have already been trained, already educated with other departments.”

Sollberger said Jakob Johnson and Zachary Shubert were paramedic and EMT transfers from fire departments in Bloomington and Decatur.

He said their backgrounds and experiences helped fast-track Peoria Fire’s typical 16-week training and put the two men on the streets six weeks earlier than the rest of their class.

“The positive side is we’re short-staffed, we can get people on-boarded faster,” Sollberger said. “It’s less money to the city of Peoria because you’re covering over time costs and you’re getting good, quality, educated firefighters on the streets quicker.”

Shubert said getting to this point has been a childhood dream come true.

“Today means so much to me,” Zachary Shubert, Peoria Firefighter, said. “Ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to be a Peoria firefighter so I’m just very happy that I was given this opportunity to serve Peoria.”

Johnson said he’s right where he belongs.

“Peoria is the city where I’ve always wanted to work,” Jakob Johnson, Peoria Firefighter and Paramedic, said. “I’m just excited to be apart of this department and this community, it’s the beginning of a long career for me.”

According to Sollberger, the department’s operational staff is supposed to be at 171 and he said right now they’re at 166. He said he’s optimistic they’ll be able to meet those numbers.

“When we get past that August class we’re going to be exactly where we need to be,” Sollberger said.

He said the department has a class of five graduating on June 30. He said there’s another recruit class starting on Aug. 26 where they’re looking to hire more.