Staffing shortage closes Petersburg fire station despite over 150 job applications: 'This is appalling'

Posted at 4:55 PM, Nov 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-30 18:28:54-05

PETERSBURG, Va. -- While many spent their Thanksgiving Day relaxing, those living near Petersburg Fire Station Number 5 were once again living near a fire station whose doors were locked.

"It should be fixed, actually the city should be fixing a whole lot of things but that's an important one," Teresa Brown, who lives near the fire station, said. "When you have emergencies that come up, I mean, and you have to come from way across town to get to your location, someone could expire during that time and it's just sad."

Petersburg fire station closes again despite over 150 job applications: 'This is appalling'

Closing the doors due to a lack of firefighters goes against what Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham requested the city manager do during the last city council meeting on November 15.

"Being closed is not an option. You make sure you keep that station open for our citizens here in Petersburg," Parham said in the November meeting.

During the city council meeting in November, questions about the state of the fire department were asked of city manager March Altman.

"I believe about, currently we have 22 vacancies. In asking HR, since February, I believe we'd received 161 applications for fire positions since February," Altman said.

Petersburg Councilman Howard Myers called the situation "appalling" in the November meeting.

"There is no excuse that we don't have the things that our firefighters need," Myers said.

For Brown, there is a simple solution to the problem at hand.

"Hire more first responders," Brown said.

In a statement to CBS 6, the Petersburg Professional Firefighters Association said the following:

Inability to ensure adequate staffing unnecessarily risks the community and city firefighters. Staffing shortages are causing closures of a neighborhood fire station, thus reducing emergency service capacity and increasing emergency response times.

Just days before the November 15 city council meeting, fire station 5 had been closed again, prompting concerns from the city council. At this time, there is no word on when more than 150 applications will be considered for hire.

The City of Petersburg shared the following statement with CBS 6 on Monday evening:

Fire Station 5 located on Johnson Road was temporarily closed for one shift on November 24 due to staffing issues related to sickness and vacation time. It was determined that calls could be handled by other City stations for that shift.

Petersburg’s City Manager is working with the Fire Chief on a plan of action to minimize future closures. There are staffing shortages throughout the country creating a tight labor market for firefighters. Petersburg continues a strong recruitment effort and is encouraging those interested to apply here.

Petersburg has mutual aid firefighting and support agreements with surrounding localities. When assistance is needed by any of these localities, aid is available.

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