The Omaha Fire Department has begun using a new – and costlier — training system required under the fire contract approved by the city in December.
It works like this: Instead of getting paramedic training in during part of regular, 24-hour shifts, a group of firefighters will be relieved from their duties to attend training classes full time.
As a result, the department is filling those spots with other firefighters working overtime hours. That’s a change from the past, which firefighters working their regular shifts could help pick up the slack, or just work a few hours of overtime.
Fire Chief Mike McDonnell said the new system ordered in the contract will help get more firefighters trained, quicker. A total of 48 will go through the program this year, which is double the number of past years.
But the city says that will come at a cost. According to projection’s from the city’s Finance Department, all of the extra overtime pay could cost the city about $3 million. The mayor announced the city will begin training a class of about 40 firefighters in February to offset retirements and various costs associated with the new fire contract. That’s one of the larger recruit classes in city history.
At the moment, it’s yet another hot topic in the five-person race for mayor.