GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A normal shift for a Gulfport firefighter is 24 hours on, then 48 hours off. However, most have been working longer shifts since May.
Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt said, "It has been tough this summer."
Currently, there are 143 firefighters and 51 must be on duty at all times.
"Very difficult, but the guys have stepped up and, you know, people pitching in doing a little more. That is how you get it done and they have been really good about that," Beyerstedt said.
Not only has it been hard on those fighting fires, it has also been expensive. The city has had to pay overtime. To eliminate that added expense, the chief asked the city council to allow him to fill the openings that are already in the budget.
"The council has always been very supportive in maintaining the great fire protection and service that we have here on the coast," Beyerstedt said.
In hopes he will get the green light to fill those positions, the chief has been working with the Gulfport Civil Service Department. Together, they have already come up with a list of possible candidates for the jobs.
"We have got about a two or three month process to get those people trained once this is done," Beyerstedt said, "so this is the first step in this journey."
Normally, firefighters train at the state fire academy in Jackson. For every firefighter, it costs the city $2,250. With 10 openings, that would amount to more than $22,000.
Instead of spending that much money, the Gulfport Fire Department plans to hold its own training academy. That would save the city and taxpayers $16,900.
"We did it two years ago, too," Beyerstedt said. "We had firefighters from Pass Christian in our training, too. It went really well and we had 100 percent pass rate out of that class which we were very proud of."
Gulfport's Chief Administrative Officer, Dr. John Kelly, sent a letter to the council saying it is critical that these positions are filled in a timely manner.
The city council is expected to discuss this during Tuesday's meeting.