- Associated Press - Saturday, October 10, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - After a five-year hiring freeze, the New Orleans Fire Department has started accepting applications for new recruits.

The New Orleans Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1hwlK2R) the department’s brief statement Friday did not specify the number of jobs available, and the city did not immediately respond to questions seeking more information.

But, during the city’s budgeting process last year, Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said a proposed $97.9 million department budget would support up to 40 new firefighters in 2015. The City Council subsequently adopted a $96 million budget.

Whatever the number, any new recruits would be a boon for a department that last welcomed 38 new firefighters in 2010. The city now has about 600 firefighters, fire apparatus operators, fire captains and deputy chiefs, down from 824 before Hurricane Katrina.

News of the possibility of more personnel was welcome to New Orleans Firefighters Association President Nick Felton, whose organization has long fought with the city over back pay, pension fund payments and upkeep of the department’s equipment.

But Felton said even 40 new firefighters might not stem the department’s bleeding. He has insisted for years that the city needs to make sure there are at least four firefighters on every engine that heads to a fire - two to get the water flowing and two more to head inside a burning structure.

“Officially, we need new firefighters. No doubt about that. But I question their methodology,” Felton said, implying that City Hall may be low-balling how many recruits are necessary.

Though McConnell originally proposed two recruit classes, Felton said three or four would be better because up to 30 firefighters retire a year, and another 10 or 12 leave because of better job opportunities elsewhere.

An entry-level New Orleans firefighter, classified as a Firefighter I, makes about $32,000 annually, according to the city’s job portal website. After one year of service and a certification, they receive $6,000 in supplemental pay. They also gain more pay boosts over time.

Felton argues that’s not competitive. In Austin, Texas, base firefighter pay starts at $50,922.

Anyone interested in working for the Fire Department may visit www.joinnofd.org or call its Office of Community Relations at 504- 658-4713.

Applicants must be at least 18 and have a high school diploma or general equivalency degree.

“Arrests and convictions for felonies or numerous misdemeanors are disqualifying,” the city said.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, https://www.neworleansadvocate.com


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