The Chicago Fire Department stands to lose nearly 600 veteran firefighters and paramedics who will max out in their pensions and retire before the end of the year, according the a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. The loss, however, may mean a gain in diverse replacements.
Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago disclosed the impending wave of retirements during a city council budget meeting. The fire department has 234 vacancies across all ranks, and Santiago said he is looking to improve diversity within those ranks. He hopes to hold the city’s first firefighters entrance exam since 2006, which he said presented the greatest chance to recruit minorities and women.
The CFD's 4,581-employee force is 66.5% white, 19.7% black, 12.5% Hispanic and 1% Asian-American. The 76-member command staff is 52.6% white, 35.5% black, 9.2% Hispanic and 2.6% Asian-American.
Santiago also defended a proposed $504.9 million fire department budget that includes a 50% increase in overtime spending, from $13.5 million this year to $20 million in 2013.