Philly’s fire department is busy, and looking to hire

The department is at about 84% of its budgeted force and is pushing people through the academy but still is coming up short.

Philadelphia Fire Department putting out a fire on N. 59th St. in West Philly

File photo: Philadelphia Fire Department putting out a fire on N. 59th St. in West Philly on August 2, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The Philadelphia Fire Department isn’t looking for more money, it’s looking for people to help them fight fires and handle emergency medical calls.

Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel came before City Council during budget hearings to say the department was at 84 % of their budgeted capacity and is working hard to fill vacant positions because of just how busy they are.

“We received more than 370,000 calls for service that equated to almost half a million runs. Actual vehicles responding to incidents, and it was about 300,000 emergency incidents. Both fires, emergency medical incidents, hazardous materials incidents, technical rescues and the like. So a very busy fire department, as you all have heard me say.”

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The Commissioner said there is an average of 8 to 10 major fires a day in the city and 80% of the calls his department handles are medical emergencies.

“Last year we had the busiest ambulance in the entire nation right here in Philadelphia. It was not in New York, LA, Houston, Phoenix or Chicago. It was right here in Philadelphia.”

Thiel said a major issue is finding those qualified to become paramedics and even getting ambulances, since the supply chain has caused issues purchasing the vehicles.

“We should not have the busiest ambulance in the nation. That is a reflection of the fact that we don’t have enough ambulances and we’ve added 10 ambulances, 10 medic units, eight time units over the past seven years. So we went from 50 when I first got here. Now we have 60 during the day, still 50 at night. We need more now. We can’t necessarily get the providers, the advanced support providers for that. That’s a national shortage.”

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The city has also applied for a grant to reopen an engine company and two ladder companies that were shuttered back in 2008 and 2009 because of a city budget shortfall. Thiel said they need to work on the physical structure of the buildings so if they get the money they can put the fire fighting equipment inside.The buildings are so old in some cases they were built for the horse and wagon firefighting days and are not solid enough to house modern firefighting apparatus.

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