MIDLAND, Texas — The Midland and Odessa Fire departments are no strangers to under staffing and cost of living problems.
Like most people in the Permian Basin, new firefighter recruits are having a hard time dealing balancing cost of living and employment, leaving local fire stations with little options.
“We get to respond a lot of things because we are short staffed,” Matthew Foster, Midland firefighter, said.
On average, firefighters do 60 emergency runs a day.
“It’s not just sit around the fire station and do nothing all day," said Charles Blumenauer, Midland Fire Chief. "It’s tough on their bodies and on their minds, but these guys are doing their best to make sure that they’re ready.”
Firefighters are used to carrying a heavy load, but in Midland that load they’re carrying is even heavier because so many of them are having to work overtime to keep citizens safe.
"You can pretty much work as much overtime as you want to work because we are so short staffed,” Foster said.
The lack in staffing has led to outsourcing new hires. Foster was recruited out of Lubbock, and commutes to work for his two days on, four days off shift.
He is just one of the 35 firefighters who do not live near Midland or Odessa; some even live as far as El Paso.
“The 48/96 gives guys like me an opportunity that don’t mind driving an hour and half, two hours, or even some of our guys who work further than that,” Foster said.
The fire chief says the cost of living here makes filling the 29 firefighter openings out of 214 positions difficult.
“We were hiring so many people who are certified or wanted to be firefighters from other areas," Blumenauer said. "We would do all the work but with the cost of living here people would go back to their areas as soon as they found a job in those areas."
In an effort to solve the problem, the fire station has changed the shift times, paid cadets to go through training off the street and the city has created its own fire academy.
Foster says the camaraderie is hard to find anywhere else.
“Just the brotherhood that we have, everybody gets along really, really, well" he said.
Foster notes he has learned a lot from Midland Fire Captains Bryce Pruitt and Jeff Dickson.
For Chief Blumenauer the biggest reward is helping people.
"You’re not gonna get rich, but the satisfaction of helping people is pretty awesome," Blumenauer said. "When you get those moments in your career where you’ve help somebody, that’s where the true payment comes in."
For more information on where you can apply to be a Midland firefighter you can click here.