PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio — The Parma Heights Fire Department last Friday swore in Joshua Nebozuk, Chris Klotzbach and Anthony Gordon as new firefighter/medic cadets.
“These new hires will put us at 28 firefighters, which is one short of being fully staffed,” Parma Heights Assistant Fire Chief Matt Bernard said.
Parma Heights Mayor Michael P. Byrne added, “It’s always a positive measure when a city can bring in new energy and enthusiasm. I’m confident these new firefighters will accomplish this.
“I appreciate the effort and dedication put forth by both the police and fire departments during these challenging times.”
The current hires were selected out of a firefighter test given last spring. The pandemic slowed down the city’s hiring process leading to the delay.
Bernard said due to pending retirements, the Parma Heights Fire Department could end up hiring two more firefighters this summer. However, he isn’t sure whether the same test can be used for the next round of hires.
“As of right now, the list is still good for another year,” Bernard said. “However, we only had 20 people take that test. What we found was a lot of people have already been hired on with other departments.
“It’s not like in the old days when you had 300 people taking a test. They’re very limited positions and they go quick.”
Exactly a year ago Parma Heights Fire Department hired three new firefighters using its then recently awarded $538,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) SAFER grant.
The program is a 90/10 split with Parma Heights contributing $334,650 over three years.
Parma Heights Finance/Personnel Director Katie Iaconis said the SAFER grant was based on the hiring of three firefighters in 2020.
“There is no additional funding (for the new hires), but the savings is really spread amongst the entire department,” Iaconis said.
Actually, a year ago the fire department initially hired a fourth firefighter/medic, who ended up taking a position with a different city. That move led to the Parma Heights Department’s recent cadet hires.
While the Parma Heights Fire Department actually saw a slight reduction of runs in 2020 (3,514) compared to 2019 (3,532), Bernard said that was tied to the spring when due to the shutdown and pandemic residents feared going to the hospital.
“People weren’t calling 911, but then we got a huge spike in June and July before going back to normal after that,” Bernard said. “It’s very important that the fire department is staffed especially in these trying times with COVID.
“So it’s a huge benefit to not only the residents that we have more firefighters in the station but it also is a huge financial asset to the city that they’re not paying additional overtime costs.”
The assistant fire chief said Parma Heights is one of the busiest fire departments in Cuyahoga County.
“While we had a six-man minimum, the mayor last year lowered us to a five-man because of the city’s financial burden due to COVID,” Bernard said.
“There is talk with the new hires that we’ll hopefully get back up to six-man. The mayor is talking about doing that sooner than later, which would be great.”
Read more news from the Parma Sun Post here.
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