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Grand Rapids Fire Dept. has smaller applicant pool than in years past, but most diverse in department history

Even though they have fewer applicants this year, they feel lucky considering the job market across the state right now.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Fire Department has hundreds of fewer applicants this year compared to previous years. 

They're not alone as fire departments across the state are struggling with their applicant pool as well. 

The Grand Rapids Fire Department is looking to hire a minimum of nine firefighters, possibly more this year. They have 703 applicants which is way down from previous years, which ranged from 1,000 to 1,200. Even though that's considerably less, a fire captain said it's an achievement considering the current job market. 

"We're still able to receive over 90 applicants for each position that we're hiring for, so it's really good numbers," said Capt. Paul Mason.

Mason said fire departments across the state have seen a lack of applicants.

At his department, he believes it's because of two main reasons: the much shorter time period they had to advertise the position, which was only one month, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The pandemic certainly has played a role in our society," Mason said. "It seems to be affecting public safety jobs, but we can't say for sure yet." 

This applicant pool is the most diverse in department history:

  •     Applicants are 90% male and 10% female.
  •     75% white and 25% non-white. 

Mason praised their recruiting efforts.

"We got out in the community and did different events and put out media material advertising the job." 

It's still yet to be seen, but the pandemic could have a lasting effect on the firefighting industry, so Mason said they need to continue to market the job well and maintain a good atmosphere.

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