City looking into putting new fire fighters under contract commi - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

City looking into putting new firefighters under contract commitment

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

Before they ever fight their first fire, the City of Lake Charles will shell out about $18,500 per rookie firefighter getting them trained and equipped.

"That's what it costs to get a person from zero to hero - getting them ready to go," said Chief Keith Murray, Lake Charles Fire Department.

According to Murray, the department is currently down 15 firefighters. He said it's partly because more and more of the new firefighters are leaving within the first year to accept better paying jobs at other departments.

"It's really disheartening when you put that much effort and time into them and you make them a tool and they are ready to work and they can do it and they are successful because they survived training and then they walk way," said Murray.

It's also caught the attention of Lake Charles City Council Vice President Luvertha August.

"We can't afford to do that. I don't know of any company that can afford to just train you and you take off and go somewhere else," said August.

To protect the city's investment, August proposes the new firefighters be required to work for a period of time before they can leave.

"I just felt like we needed to have some type of commitment in place for if a potential firefighter is going to take advantage of fire training that they should be committed to the City of Lake Charles for a certain amount of time before they decide to just move on," explained August.

Murray believes some type of contractual agreement will help them maintain the new firefighters they hire.

"I'm not saying they won't leave at the end of the commitment but for a guaranteed for whatever amount of time they have in mind that they will be here for that," said Murray.

The other part of the equation is recruitment. Murray said despite advertising more in the department's history, they are still struggling to make full staff. Out of 27 applicants only seven are going through the upcoming training academy.

"As soon as we are through with this academy, we are going to hire again ... in our ever-ending hope of getting close to our full staff of 182 so that way we can have the best chance of keeping our overtime down and the most men on the trucks," said Murray.

The new firefighter training academy begins Jan. 16 and lasts for 20 weeks. Meanwhile, the City of Lake Charles is looking into a possible contract requirement for new firefighters.

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