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Are you fired up? Bemidji Fire Department short on manpower, seeks paid-on-call firefighters

Bemidji Fire Department are short seven volunteer fireman with a host of twenty year veterans ready to retire. Shown above eight year veteran Mitch Howe inspects equipment during his shift on Thursday afternoon. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- Do you have a burning desire to be a firefighter? If so, the Bemidji Fire Department wants to talk to you.

The BFD has seven open vacancies for Paid-On-Call volunteer positions and needs to fill those spots by the end of August in order to be at 100 percent firefighting capability.

Paid-On-Call volunteers work for the fire department part time. When a call for service is sent out, the volunteers' pagers beep, which alerts them to the situation and sends them into action. Once on a call, firefighters are then paid an hourly rate.

Chris Loebs, an assistant fire chief at the BFD, said applications for Paid-On-Call volunteers have decreased in the past couple years, leaving the department short on manpower. According to Loebs, one reason for the decrease may be because people lack the time to commit to the job.

"In today's society, people are too busy to put forth the time and effort to be a firefighter," Loebs said.

Out of the 48 firefighters on staff, 40 are Paid-On-Call with five of the 40 living at the firehouse. Out of the five dormitory firefighters, two vacancies are expected to open by August.

To become a Paid-On-Call firefighter, applicants must be 18 or older, live within three miles of a fire station, make 25 percent of paged calls and go through extensive training.

"There's certain amount of training requirements -- there's monthly training and monthly meetings," Loebs said. "In their first year, they get put through our Fire One Program, which is a couple nights a week with two-three hours per night."

Loebs said the main reason for so many vacancies this year is because of Paid-On-Call firefighters either taking full-time jobs at other fire departments or shifting to other lines of work. By Aug. 31, the fire department could potentially be down another two firefighters.

To help fill vacancies, the BFD is undertaking a media blitz through local outlets and also on social media sites such as Facebook.

"We're just trying to get information out there on what kind of commitment is required."

With a starting wage of $9.50 per hour, Loebs said the job is by no means a primary source of income, but the reward that comes with it are indescribable.

"It's kind of hard to explain the reward that we have when we do our job -- to express how gratifying it is to serve your community."

To apply for a Paid-On-Call position, applications can be picked up at City Hall. For more updates from Bemidji Fire Department, like them on Facebook or visit the City Departments tab at For questions about the open positions, email the BFD at or call (218) 751-8001.

Paid-On-Call pay rates by hour

POC Probationary Firefighter -- $9.50

POC Firefighter -- $10.50

POC Equipment Operator -- $11.50

POC Fire Captain -- $12.50

POC Asst. Fire Chief -- $13.50

POC Deputy Fire Chief -- $14.50