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Application numbers down for Spokane Valley fire openings

The Spokane Valley Fire Department will try to fill 20 vacancies next year.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
The Spokane Valley Fire Department will try to fill 20 vacancies next year.

Many industries are struggling to attract new employees. Firefighting is among them.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department is recruiting for its annual late winter and spring training session. It’s finding the number of applicants is much lower than in past years.

As of Tuesday, Spokane Valley Fire Chief Frank Soto, Junior said his department had received applications from 322 people interested in firefighting careers.

"In the yesteryears, I would be, like, why isn’t that number 3,022?" Soto, Junior said. "But, you know what, we will settle on 322 because that is a lot more than what people normally get.”

Soto thinks the lack of interest in his industry is a generational thing. Young people are spending more time with their technology than out doing physical things and a dangerous career like firefighting is much less enticing to them.

“I would say right now this has been like a 15-year trend. There’s an umbilical cord connected to a cell phone on each one of these kids. Everything they do, they text before they talk. It’s just a completely different animal and we’re trying to adjust to it. We’re trying to understand it," he said.

Soto says, even though the application numbers are down, he won’t lower the physical standards new recruits must attain.

“I’ll be very clear. I don’t care who their mommies are. I don’t care who their daddies are. I don’t care if they come from 200 years of firefighters. If my training division says you can’t cut it, you’re not up for the task, then we’re letting you go," he said.

The Valley Fire Department is aiming to fill 20 openings. It’s taking applications until next Monday. The people chosen from the pool of applicants will begin an 18-week training program in mid-March. That’s the start of the new firefighters’ one-year probationary period, during which they’ll cycle through most or all of the department’s stations.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.