PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At the Pittsburgh Fire Academy, 28 recruits — training to become firefighters — are drilled in all aspects of fire suppression.

But at graduation they’ll help put out another kind of fire — runaway overtime, more than $1 million a month.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “This can’t be good management of taxpayer dollars.”

Fire Union President Joe King: “Without a doubt. It’s been mismanaged for many years. They’ve got to hire more firefighters in the city of Pittsburgh.

Some firefighters have been working as much as 80 hours a week, but that should tapper off some with the addition of this class and a previous one of 27 recruits.

That would still leave the bureau short, but Fire Chief Darryl Jones says he’s applied for a Homeland Security grant for an addition of 56 more.

“I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic. It’s a competitive process,” said Chief Jones.

But with or without that grant, Councilman Bill Peduto, who is likely to become the next mayor, says the city needs to hire more firefighters.

Peduto, however, says he wants to have more management control, reducing overtime and callbacks by reducing so-called minimum staffing requirements.

He’d also like to see an end to basing a firefighter’s pension benefits on his or her salary for their final years of service, overtime included.

“We need to be able to get management of the fire bureau back within the city, and we need to be able to hire more so that there isn’t a need for vast amounts of overtime,” said Peduto.

So, it appears there will be more classes and recruits coming through the training academy in the coming years, and while that may not solve the overtime and pension problem, it will at least put a dent in it.

Pittsburgh Fire Bureau Overtime To Hit All-Time Record (9/11/13)
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