Valparaiso Fire Department's Station No. 1, 205 Indiana Ave. (Deena Lawley-Dixon / Post-Tribune)
Valparaiso Fire Department's Station No. 1, 205 Indiana Ave. (Deena Lawley-Dixon / Post-Tribune)
A shortage of firefighters is a current nationwide problem, and Porter County fire departments are doing their best to change that.

There was a huge surge of hirings after 9/11 and now local departments are seeing the decline in qualified applicants. “Overall, we are seeing what a lot of businesses are seeing — people are just not taking jobs right now,” said Kevin Young, assistant fire chief for the Portage Fire Department.

“We have a hiring list but there is a nationwide problem right now, and so we have had to make some adjustments to our hiring process. We have now lowered the age from 21 to 18 in Porter County, and we are allowing lateral transfers, meaning from one fire department to another,” Young added.

Crown Point Fire Rescue, meanwhile, is conducting an emergency hire process to find qualified firefighter/paramedics to join the Crown Point Fire Rescue family. Applications close Friday, Sept. 23, and can be found on the city of Crown Point website at www.crownpoint.in.gov.

Currently, the requirements for hiring include a high school diploma or GED, EMT certification, passing of physical tests and a background test, and a valid Indiana driver’s license.

The MAAC Foundation Emergency Services Training Campus in Valparaiso holds vocational classes for the certifications needed to be hired by local fire departments.

“Once a high school student graduates with these certifications, they can be hired by the fire department and do not have to wait until they turn 21,” said Jon Daly, assistant fire chief for the Valparaiso Fire Department.

Bob Schulte, of the Valparaiso Fire Department, currently co-teaches the program at the MAAC with Teresa Janovitz, of the Portage Fire Department. Juniors and seniors from Porter County and Hobart are eligible for the program. The students attend every day from 11:50 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“When they leave the first year of the program, they have their Firefighter I, Firefighter II, Hazmat Awareness and Ops and Technical Rescue Awareness (certifications). In the second year, they can earn their EMT certification.” said Schulte.

“The program is also dual-credited, so if they leave our program with both years complete, they are only three courses away from a fire sciences degree at Ivy Tech through the Pathway for Public Safety Program with the state of Indiana,” said Schulte.

“We don’t want to lose the students to the mill or to other jobs while they have to wait those three years to turn 21. We want to be able to get them in right away when they already have the passion for it,” said Daly.

“At Valparaiso fire we have used the program as a way to get a good look at these kids and see who is a good fit for Valparaiso. Consequently, we have hired three from the program,” said Schulte.
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