Terre Haute Fire Department extends firefighter application deadline

Sep. 8—Facing 30 retirements coming in the next three or four years, the Terre Haute Fire Department is looking for not just a few, but a lot of good people.

Fire Chief Bill Berry said Wednesday that the THFD is in the process of taking applications from prospective firefighters. The deadline for submitting applications has been extended until September 29th at 4:00pm.

"We're getting to the point where we'll have a lot of turnover," Berry said. "We want as many applicants as we can possibly get. We will be hiring very soon."

Physical applications can be picked up at the main office and maintenance garage at 25 Spruce St. or at the fire department's training center at 2465 N. Brown Ave. Applicants can also visit thfd.org/app.pdf and print out the requisite forms. They must a valid driver's license, a high school diploma or equivalent and be a U.S. citizen.

After that, applicants will be subjected to a Candidate Physical Agility Test (CPAT) and a background check. They will be called in for a general aptitude test and an oral interview.

The THFD Merit Board will then review and rank the applications. Bonus points are given to applicants who are already an emergency medical technician, have a fire science degree and/or had earlier family members serve in the department.

Candidates' names will be on a list for two years. When Terre Haute mayor Duke Bennett agrees to Berry's request to make new hires, the merit board will provide him with the top names on the list.

"If we expunge the list within two years, then we'll have another hiring list," Berry said.

Berry noted that new state laws have been enacted to expand the applicant pool. Those interested in serving can live in any state and still become a Terre Haute firefighter (though the commute could get pretty rough).

The age limit for applicants has also been increased, from between 21 to 36 to up to just before one's 40th birthday. As soon as applicants turn 40, they'll no longer be eligible to become a firefighter.

After getting sworn in, recruits will take a monthlong EMT class even if they're already an EMT, then go to three months of training academy.

In that training, they will learn about firefighting, rescues and the proper use of hazardous materials (HAZMAT). They then will be inducted into the department.

Berry expects up to three training academies over the next two years.

Starting annual pay for a THFD firefighter is $51,304, and that goes to $56,465 after the first year, the chief said.

THFD also offers generous benefits and pension. Firefighters can retire after 20 years of service, but can't draw their pension until age 52.

Firefighters at Station No. 7 in north Terre Haute all agreed that they have, as Mike Dammann put it, the "greatest job in the world."

"I've had a lot of jobs," said Dammann, who has been 21 years on the job. "Some of them have not been so great."

Mike Shelton, a 10-year veteran, agreed.

"It's true, it really is," he said. "To do the things we do, and get to do what we do, and work with the people we work with, you can't beat it."

Robby Cordell, who joined the department seven years ago, also loves his job but admitted that one aspect surprised him.

"The EMT paramedic side is something different," he said. "If you don't have any experience, it's hard to know exactly what that's going to be until you get here. Being a paramedic and being in an ambulance is way more in depth than I ever thought it would be."

David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at david.kronke@tribstar.com.