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While the iron's hot: Rise in demand for firefighters means high hiring likelihood

Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue
Posted at 7:13 PM, Apr 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-23 11:20:54-04

NEENAH (NBC 26) — If you've ever had any interest in the field of firefighting, experts are saying now is the time to invest in a career.

Of the 68 positions within Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue, 15 members of the force are retiring in the next three to four years.

“Our retention rate for Neenah-Menasha Fire is extremely high,” said Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Jim Peglow.

And that retention rate is normally a good thing. It's a sign of a healthy work culture and a testament to the Fire Rescue's declaration that the team is really a family.

But when many people are hired in the same year, and no one leaves until retirement, there is a massive exodus.

"It is concerning. It's very concerning that we are down on our numbers. It's good for our applicants because they're probably going to get a job," Peglow said.

Enter: opportunity.

"I think as the market is needing firefighters our program thrives," said Jim Austad.

Austad is the Fire Program Chair at Fox Valley Technical College. And his school's Fire Protection Technician program is currently thriving.

Fire departments are in higher-than-normal need of applicants.

This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it's part of a pretty typical cycle.

"Every 30-plus years it turns over, and we had a similar situation in the late-'80s early-'90s. In fact, a lot of the people from Neenah-Menasha that are retiring in the next couple of years all came on in the fire department in that time frame," said Austad.

Though there is some concern about filling the outgoing positions, Peglow said he's not worried that the inevitable new hires will be happy they joined.

"There might be some better jobs out there - I'm not really sure what they are," Peglow said.

And anyone who wants to join the force need not be daunted by the process, Austad assures.

"From the biggest to the smallest person, we can get them to be a firefighter. It's all gotta be right here," Austad said, pointing to his heart. "This is where it's at."

Peglow said Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue pays $17.50 hourly.