Last summer, the Salt River Fire Department was awarded a federal SAFER grant (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) to improve staffing levels within the organization. The grant consisted of $2.5 million to cover additional personnel. This gave SRFD the opportunity to develop a recruitment program to help Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and other Native Americans learn the skills and navigate the process for becoming a firefighter.
Chief Tsosie Wood and two firefighters, Jayce Johnson and Aaron Morales, put the program together to recruit Community members so they can fill empty positions in the department. The recruitment program started in August 2021. Participants learn the material covered on the written exam, undergo physical training for the Candidate Physical Ability Test and prepare for the oral board interview.
The program started with 21 Community members and nine from other Native communities, such as Gila River, the Navajo Nation, the White Mountain Apache, and Sac and Fox. In the first group of recruits, 19 individuals ended up taking the written exam. Ten Community members passed, and the nine who did not will be offered employment through the Underfill Program, explained Fire Chief Daryl Dash.
Out of those recruits, nine Community members passed both the physical and written tests and started at the Fire Academy on March 2.
“This is the largest Community-member hiring that has ever been done in the history of the [Salt River] fire department. The last large group of Community members hired was back in 1983, when they hired six Community members,” said Dash. “It’s been a real success for us in regards to having this grant and funding to hire more Community members. We are focusing on hiring six more under the Underfill Program.”
The SRFD will begin another round of recruiting soon. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the SRFD, watch the SRPMIC Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SRPMIC for any new information, or call the SRFD at (480) 362-7290.