To the editor:
Last week, local television station WJAR Channel 10 featured a story regarding the problems that smaller fire departments across Rhode Island are facing regarding recruitment and …
To the editor:
Last week, local television station WJAR Channel 10 featured a story regarding the problems that smaller fire departments across Rhode Island are facing regarding recruitment and retention of personnel, as many firefighters are leaving smaller departments for the higher pay and better benefits offered by other cities and towns in our area. And while some may feel this problem does not affect the fire department here in Bristol, that is surely not the case, as our local fire department is also facing those same recruitment and retention problems.
Up until recently, if you were seeking employment as a firefighter in the state of Rhode Island, you had to apply to individual city and town fire departments, go through a series of written and physical tests in each individual city or town, and once offered employment, you were compelled to attend the training academy of that particular fire department, which could be as long as 6 months. And in the rare cases that a firefighter chose to leave their department for a different one, they had to basically start from scratch and go through the entire application, testing, and training process all over again, while giving up the seniority they had accrued at their previous department. That has all changed today, as trained firefighters can move from municipality to municipality in a lateral transfer process, bypass the testing and training requirements and taking their seniority and pension credits with them to their new fire department.
Many town residents consider Bristol to be a "volunteer" department, but that is somewhat of a misnomer, as the town employs numerous individuals in the fire department and rescue squad, both on a full time and part time basis, and unless you're independently wealthy, it's only common sense that a firefighter or rescue squad member in Bristol is going to shop around and take their skills and talents to a municipality which offers a higher salary and benefit package. The Bristol firefighters and rescue squad members are an extremely dedicated and professional group, but they also have mortgage and rent payments, grocery bills, college education expenses for their children, etc. that they face, and simply receiving a pat on the back from the town for their hard work only goes so far and does not pay the everyday bills that so many have to deal with on a daily basis.
The town of Bristol is very fortunate to have so many hard working and dedicated members of the fire department and rescue squad, and it's time that the town steps up to the plate and offers these everyday heroes a competitive salary and benefit package, or face losing them to other cities and towns in the state.
245 Chestnut St.