Humboldt Bay Fire has experienced significant retention issues and they hope to gain new firefighters after the cadet program

Photo courtesy of Humboldt Bay Fire
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For some, the lifelong dream of becoming a firefighter sets their career goals and yet, Humboldt Bay Fire is experiencing a significant recruiting and retention problem.

“We’re just struggling a lot to get good people who live here and want to stay here,” said Sean Robertson, the Fire Chief. “So part of our strategies besides paying our people more and looking for other opportunities like that is to create a cadet program that’s similar to a police academy.”

In the last three years, the department has lost 17 crew members. And by the end of this month, they will lose their 20-year captain, too. That’s where new cadet firefighter participants come in and it’s not too late to apply. The two-year training program includes the California State Fire Marshal-Firefighter Academy and certification, live fire rescue training, and emergency medical training and certification. Recruits must be at least 18 years old to apply. The cadet program is not a paid position.

“For now, it’s just a development program,” Robertson said. “So there would be a requirement for a certain number of hours to come and train per month. And we pay for all the training you need. We provide all the equipment, all of the support. So it is an investment by the applicant, but it’s also an investment for us.”

Once you become a cadet firefighter, training takes another two years to attain your EMT and FF1 certifications to become eligible to apply for the Humboldt Bay Fire career position. 

Humboldt Bay Fire is always taking applications for the cadet program but generally reviews them in the Spring so it can better align with the fall semester EMT and firefighting training.    

“What is just amazing about this career for me and it has been, is it’s just so fulfilling,” Robertson said. “It’s very community-based. We are always there to help people that need us. It’s rewarding that way, and it’s also the most challenging job that I’ve ever done because it challenges you on every level and there’s always more that you can learn.”

The process for the program involves interviews, a criminal record and background check and a medical exam. Then, the applicant is ready to join the firefighter cadet academy.

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