AKRON - Akron's Mayor, Don Plusquellic, took the podium joking, "How in the world are we hiring all of these folks? Forty-two recruits, who approved that?"
That's how many firefighter-medics were sworn in to Akron Fire Department at the First United Methodist Church in Akron on Friday.
It's a larger number than what most would have expected, but Akron's Fire Chief said Friday that they were able to do so thanks in part to Federal Grants that's been assisting the Akron Fire Department ever since our nation's economy took a turn for the worst a few years back.
Chief Ross told NewsChannel5 in 2009 they laid off 38 individuals for about 10 months Ross said a staffing grant awarded to the Akron Fire Department in early 2011 allowed to them to bring those employees back. But he says the next big hire hasn't been seen until Friday.
"It's a long time coming," said Ross, "This process started actually a couple years ago. It takes that long to kind of run through all the various approval steps …"
Chief Ross told NewsChannel5 of the 42 cadets to be sworn-in Friday, 27 of them are military veterans like Todd Knepp, says he served in Iraq from 2006 to 2007 with the Army National Guard. Knepp is also from Akron and, with a baby on the way, had nothing but a smile on his face at the Friday ceremony.
"The passion behind it is wanting to help people, wanting to get out there and make a difference. Try to save people's lives and just make a difference in the community," said Knepp.
Chief Ross said the need for dedicated fire department members like Knepp is greater now than ever before, surprisingly due in part to the economic downturn, the very thing that put firefighters out of work.
"With the downturn in the economy and number of years ago and all the vacant and foreclosed homes that everybody's experiencing, we've had a significant uptick in the number of fires in those types of structures," said Chief Ross. He added, "Ever since we started EMS in 1978, our call volume continues to increase. "
Ross said the Akron Fire Department is now up to 36,000 EMS runs a year.
Some of the new members will be starting work as early as this weekend.