Richmond Fire Department blazing through recruiting

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 3/16/2023, 6 p.m.
When it comes to recruiting, the Richmond Department of Fire and Emergency Services stands head and shoulders above the rest ...
Chief Carter

When it comes to recruiting, the Rich- mond Department of Fire and Emergency Services stands head and shoulders above the rest of the city’s public safety depart- ments.

In a time when the Police Department, Emergency Communications and the Sheriff’s Office are still reporting significant vacancies, the Fire Department is now fully staffed, according to Fire Chief Melvin D. Carter.

Six months ago, he said the department had 48 vacancies. That fell by half in October, he said, after the graduation of another class. Chief Carter and Assistant Chief Travis Ford indicated last week that the remaining empty positions have been filled.

Recruiting has improved in the wake of major pay increases that Mayor Levar M. Stoney and City Council approved last May. The increases became effective after the 2022-23 fiscal year began July 1.

Chief Carter also has disclosed that 72 recruits are now in training, which he said is one of largest classes since Richmond launched a professional department in 1858. The class is so large that 36 are training at a Henrico County facility.

He said the new class, which he indicated would complete training in September, would allow the department to expand by four companies.

Chief Carter announced in September a plan to install the additional companies being notified that the department had received a $13.7 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The chief said in September that grant will help rebuild a department that has had 13 companies disbanded since 1970 while, at the same time, calls for service have grown more than 700 percent.

“The new companies will go a long way to putting our department in position to support the continuing population growth,” he said.