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Stamford fire department seeks more members

October 24, 2018

STAMFORD — The chemistry of the city’s fire department has evolved over the last few decades.

Deputy Chief of Training Matthew Palmer said the department’s focus has shifted from strictly putting out fires to now having a balance of members with diverse backgrounds.

Firefighting experience is not even necessary to apply for one of the 30 positions the department is hoping to fill over the next three years.

About 1,000 candidates have applied for the jobs, which pay $53,000 in the first year and up to $81,000 after five years.

“No matter what their background is, we need candidates who have a variety of work and life experiences that can support our mission,” Palmer said.

Before joining the department three years ago, Stamford native Riis Lane, 37, was a football coach. Lane said he loved having a positive influence on his players, but now he gets to help the entire city.

“Being a firefighter is one of the most awesome jobs I have ever had,” he said. “The biggest part of coaching was having an impact on the players I was coaching. Now I am having an impact on the community.”

Palmer, who is leading a recruitment team of 10 firefighters to bolster the number of applications, said the department is expecting an influx of retirements in the next few years.

Palmer said 28 of the department’s 265 career firefighters are over 55 years old. He said 16 of them have at least 32 years of service.

“One thing we never know is who is retiring at any given year,” Palmer said. “We always have to anticipate the potential impact of retirements. At a minimum, we will be hiring upwards of 12 firefighters over the next year.”

Palmer said applicants who have lived in Stamford for at least one year, city volunteer firefighters and military veterans will have an advantage.

Palmer said there were 2,500 applicants when he joined the department during the early 1990s. He attributed the limited amount of applicants this year to the low unemployment rate and the booming economy.

Palmer also hopes to improve the diversity of the department, which only has three women members or 1.25 percent. Palmer said he hopes it improves to the national average of 4 percent.

“No one should disqualify themselves from believing a career in the Stamford Fire Department is not possible for them,” Palmer said. “The door is open to anyone who wants to serve.”

The deadline to submit an online application is Oct. 31. Candidates must be 18 years old, have a driver’s license, and be a high school graduate by the time of their hiring test. A written exam will be administered in November and a fitness test can be taken at the Connecticut Fire Academy in Meridan before next summer.

To apply, visit www.stamfordfire.com.

jnickerson@stamfordadvocate.com