PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Fire Department began recruiting for its first training academy in roughly four years on Friday.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré told 12 News there has not been a need to replace firefighting staff since 2018. In the next 12 to 18 months however, Paré says firefighters will be retiring through attrition and other factors.
“It will be, perhaps, six months that we’re going to recruit, and we’ll begin the process thereafter, but we plan on running this 53rd academy next fiscal year when it’s funded,” Paré explained.
Paré says while there may be around ten mandatory retirees in the coming year, the department isn’t just looking for that many recruits.
“Running an academy with less than 25 recruits is cost prohibitive,” Paré said.
He says the department is hoping for anywhere from 35 to 50 recruits in the next academy.
“But that’s yet to be seen. If we don’t lose through attrition the numbers that we expect, we can adjust that and a decision can be made as to the funding in the next fiscal year,” the public safety commissioner explained.
The roughly 26-week training academy certifies trainees in structural firefighting, hazardous materials response, emergency medical services, emergency vehicle driving and other job-specific duties and responsibilities.
Assistant Fire Chief Derek Silva reminded potential recruits the fire department responds to more than just fires, including everything from heart attack calls to hot water tank leaks.
“We respond when a sudden rainstorm traps you in your car on the highway,” Silva said.
“When you call, we respond, and we’re looking for those who are ready, willing and able to answer that call,” he added.
The department is hoping applicants of all genders, races and nationalities apply.
Jim Vincent, President of the of the NAACP Providence branch, says he’s helping to effort academy recruits.
“In the past, we’ve had some great success in terms of the Providence Police Department, in terms of recruitment, especially in the diversity space,” Vincent explained. “And we feel that we could do the same thing here in Providence, in terms of Providence Fire Department.”
According to a breakdown of the 374 firefighters on staff provided by Silva, a majority of the department, 72.46%, or 271 firefighters, are white.
The remaining 103 firefighters are 14.71%, or 55 Hispanic (just males), 9.36%, or 35 Black males and females, 2.14%, or 8 Asian Pl (just males), 1.07%, or 4 Biracial males and females and 0.27%, or 1 American Indian male.
Department data shows 94.39% of Providence firefighters are male, while just 5.61% are female.
“We need a diverse pool of candidates. That brings the strength of this department; we’re committed to it,” Paré added.
Seventy-three firefighters graduated from the 52nd academy in 2018.
When those recruits began training, the city said the new class was comprised of seven (8.8 %) females and 73 (91.2%) males, including 36.3% minorities.