Iowa firefighters in Cedar Falls need new blood to replace their retiring personnel, but the city is dead-set on keeping fire-qualified police officers instead.
Known as Public Safety Officers, the PSOs are usually police officers who have been trained to perform intermediate tasks during major fires.
However, PSO’s cost more than new firefighter hires and are arguably not as qualified to handle as many calls.
Captain Sharon Regenold retired from Cedar Falls Fire Rescue last year over the issue, arguing that PSOs are not as prepared as full-time firefighters, which puts lives at risks.
“I absolutely knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if a firefighter got hurt, or a citizen got hurt, and all that made my decision easy.”
In her opinion, PSOs can only help in minor situations and the lack of full-time firemen is stretching CFFR.
“I don’t know that they even have the firefighter’s heart,” she lamented. “I think that somebody says they’ll be a firefighter and has gone down there and gone through the calls together as a group. You know you trust them, you know they’ll have your back, and I don’t have that feeling with these guys.”
Despite assertions that all PSOs are trained in the basic Firefighter I skill range, Regenold claims there is more to fighting fires than education.
“We had a situation where we had a fire, and the Public Safety Officer came up to the fire officer and said ‘hey my air tank is empty,’” she recalled. “Well, what had happened is he never turned his air tank on. That’s a basic firefighter one skill.”
According to KCRG, the city has no plans to add more firefighters.