PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Plainfield Township Fire Department is working to recruit more people as it experiences a shortage of firefighters.

“It’s a very rewarding job. It’s the best job in the world. I’ve been in it for 40 years and I love it,” Chief Steven McKellar said.

He said that at full capacity, the department has about 50 people on payroll, including office staff. Right now, it has 35 and only 11 are full-time firefighters. There’s also one full-time administrator. The rest are part-time workers, including several part-time firefighters.

He said the department has been dealing with staffing issues for the last two or three years, but since the pandemic started, it has seen even fewer applicants.

“We’ve had some retirements that we’ve had some problems filling. COVID has put a strain on our part-time staff. Some have elected to retire because of COVID, some had elected to not pick up as many shifts,” McKellar said.

The department has lost some part-time firefighters to neighboring departments offering full-time positions, too.

“Typically, most of my part-time fire fighters have a goal of becoming full-time somewhere. As of right now, our budget doesn’t support additional full-time,” McKellar said.

McKellar says while the shortage has had little to no effect on response times, it does put a strain on existing staff who have to pick up the additional shifts. The department is now in talks with the township about allocating more money to the fire department to pay for six additional full-time firefighters in the coming years. It is also applying for grant funds.

“To have the additional staff (means) more hands on site, jobs would be done more efficiently and we’d have more staff that can cover overtime shifts,” McKellar said.

Applicants will have to pass a background check before getting an interview with the department chiefs. Then they will have to go through a series of tests, including a physical ability test and a job physical, before they would go through firefighter training.

Anyone interested in joining the Plainfield Township Fire Department can find more information about the application and process at the township website.