For a department facing staffing issues, the Colorado Springs Fire Department got some much-needed help Friday.
Before friends, family and dignitaries, the department made history Friday welcoming the Class of 2018-1, the largest the department has ever had.
For new Firefighter James Osaer, it was an experience he wouldn’t change.
"I wouldn’t have it any other way. I met so many fantastic people, folks that will be friends, hopefully for the rest of our lives, and serve together for as many years as we can," Osaer said.
The 33 new firefighters were hand-picked from a pool of 1,300 applicants.
"They’ve already accomplished a lot just to get in the academy," Chief Ted Collas said. "And then, the 17 weeks, they really get the top-notch training that we can offer them anywhere in the state. They get it here in Colorado Springs."
They learned extrications, structure and wildland firefighting among other skills. All of the training led to Friday’s ceremony, where the recruits took the oath of office before receiving their badge.
"Man, we saw those things everyday on everybody’s chest, and we admire those cadre and those folks that trained us," Osaer. "Having that, being able to pin that on today was something really special."
The record-breaking class comes at the perfect time for Colorado Springs Fire. In 2017, firefighters worked 11,000 hours of mandatory overtime.
Chief Collas said the size of this class is a step in the right direction, as 33 new firefighters prepare to answer the bell whenever it rings next.
"And hopefully we’ll get our staffing up to where it needs to be, so we can stop having to mandatory, or impose overtime on our firefighters," Collas said.
Of the 33 newcomers, 25 will fill positions opened by retirement, while eight will take newly formed positions. Firefighters tell News 5’s Sam Kraemer the department still needs close to 40 more people to get to full staffing.