A new $6 million state-of-the-art fire station on Des Moines' northeast side will cut travel times in half but will cost the city of Des Moines thousands of dollars in overtime every week due to an ongoing staffing shortage in the Des Moines Fire Department.
Fire Station 11 opened Nov. 1, despite the department facing 19 staff vacancies — a number that's expected to rise to about 23 by the end of the year due to retirements.
The department's hiring cycle took a hit at the beginning of the pandemic, Des Moines Fire Chief John TeKippe said Wednesday. "We literally had to freeze our testing process to rework it to make it COVID-19-acceptable because it's a licensed process that we use on the physical," TeKippe said. The freeze delayed the department's hiring process for about seven months.
The fire department also experienced an increase of injuries on and off the job last year that resulted in additional unforeseen vacancies.