MACON, Ga. — A lot of public safety agencies in Central Georgia are short of first responders.
Some agencies are saying the pandemic is one of many reasons they are facing staff shortages, but they are eager to fill those positions.
"We are in fires together, so we literally have to be willing to save each other's lives," said Private Kashai Sanchez.
Sanchez worked in insurance for 6 years, but she realized she wanted a job that would keep her on her feet and where she could serve her community.
"I didn't really know where else to go or what else to do, so when it was presented to me, I thought, 'It sounds like a good job for me because we will get all these different calls, no shift will be the same, no call will be the same,'" explained Sanchez.
"We are always looking for new energetic firefighters to come to Macon-Bibb County," said Fire Chief Shane Edwards.
The Class 1 Macon-Bibb Fire Department is looking to add about 100 more people to their 400 firefighters and 22 stations, but first responder units across Georgia are short-staffed. That include many agencies in Central Georgia. Now to combat that, many agencies are offering incentives. For example, in March, the Bibb County Sheriff's Office announced a signing bonus of up to $2,500. They say they're searching for people who are passionate and eager to serve, similar to Private Sanchez, the valedictorian of her class at firefighter training school.
"You're dealing with the community, so you're dealing with a lot of different people. You get to help people, you are serving the community, there's a lot of pride that goes into the job, too. We'll pull up on the scene and they will be like, 'Oh, my gosh, we have a female firefighter,' and it makes me proud to know I was able to do it and hang in there with the boys just as good, and as valedictorian. There was a lot that went into that," explained Sanchez.
Macon-Bibb Fire recently started offering three pay raise incentives. One is when trainees complete their EMT school, they will receive a $4,500 raise to be a firefighter EMT.