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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2001

Paramedics preferred as new firefighters


Toledo fire Chief Mike Bell's proposal to have all new firefighters trained as paramedics is a standard practice in other Ohio cities and throughout the country.

“There are a lot of departments that are committed to that service,” he said.

In Sylvania, for example, hires are required to be paramedics. In Dayton, they must become paramedics within 30 months after graduating from the fire academy.

Toledo could be added to the list if the city's Civil Service Commission agrees to advertise for separate firefighter and firefighter-paramedic positions on the next recruitment list, which comes out after candidates take a recruitment test this summer.

New hires would be required to select which position they want.

“I'm optimistic. I think the two-list system could work. It could meet the goal of having more paramedics,” Deputy Chief Bob Metzger said yesterday.

But the commission faces a hurdle: a quarter-century old federal court consent decree that orders the department to maintain certain levels of minorities. Chief Bell said there are concerns that the department may not get enough minority candidates who meet the tougher standards for a firefighter-paramedic.

The commission met yesterday to discuss the firefighter-paramedic proposal, which is supported by Toledo Firefighters Local 92. Commission members are expected to make a decision this week. Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, a group appointed to monitor the city's hiring practices involving racial quotas, will review the proposal, which Chief Bell said will improve the quality of the department.

New hires in Columbus were required to be paramedics. Now, it's up to the discretion of the fire chief. If the numbers fall below a certain mark, the chief asks for volunteers. If there are not enough, those with the lowest seniority who have completed their probationary period are selected for the training, according to a paramedic hiring survey conducted by Toledo fire officials.

The Cleveland Heights fire department requires that firefighters become paramedics within two years of when they were hired. In Aurora, Ill., firefighters are educated as paramedics on an as-needed basis according to seniority. If they don't complete the training, they are terminated.

In other cities, such as Dallas, a paramedic curriculum is part of the firefighter training process. Some cities, such as Tampa and Bessemer, Ala., require that firefighters become paramedics within a certain period of time from the date they are hired or after they complete emergency medical training.

In some cities, new hires must be paramedics. In others, paramedics are given special consideration in the hiring process, according to the survey.

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