Dozens of firefighters have resigned from Indian River County Fire Rescue in the last year, leading the fire chief to dig into new ways to hire men and women who will stick around.
WPTV obtained 35 resignation letters from firefighters and fire medics submitted over the last year.
Many of those leaving appear, in their letters, to be newer with the agency. Some listed exactly why they’re leaving so soon.
Some letters did not give specific reasons.
In 14 of the letters, firefighters express they are leaving for better-paying agencies or to be closer to family, mainly south of Indian River County, such as in Palm Beach or Miami-Dade counties.
Some firefighters only had months of experience with the agency.
Fire Chief Tad Stone is about six months into his new position, learning retention will be one challenge he will face in leading the agency. It’s also something he says he is making a priority.
“You’re always competing with larger departments,” Stone said. He knows it is hard to compete with more pay, but nearly impossible to compete with an agency closer to someone's family.
“I would say you lose institutional knowledge when you have a turnover rate. Ours isn’t extreme, but it’s a little high,” Stone said.
Now, he says his agency is looking into new ways to hire firefighters and fire medics who are looking for a long-term career in Indian River County.
He says they’ve changed their hiring matrix, giving more ‘points’ to local men and women.
“To try to capture more of the local talent we have here,” Stone said.
Stone said he is even recruiting in high schools. “Let them know we’re here, that we’re a major employer in the county.”
In the resignation letters, nearly half who disclosed their years of employment in the latter have two years or less with the agency.
A couple only had a few months of experience before leaving.
Stone is hopeful new measures to find long-term employees will make a difference.
"We hate to lose those assets.”
Stone said 16 new hires are starting soon, some coming with previous experience working for Indian River County. He says six new hires are also from Indian River County.