• Marion County Fire Rescue struggles to keep firefighters


    MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Marion County Fire Rescue leaders are concerned about keeping enough firefighters on staff to keep residents safe.

    The number of agency employees leaving to go to other cities and counties has more than doubled in the last five years, according to officials. Channel 9 learned the latest resignations are from veteran firefighters and EMTs with more than 5 years of experience.

    "It is disappointing and a little frustrating," Deputy Chief Paul Nevels with Marion County Fire Rescue said.

    Nevels has seen nearly 40 resignation letters come through his office in the past year. A recent letter said the problem is money and the county isn't paying enough to compete. In the letter, the resigning firefighter explained he's leaving to work in Orange County, where his starting pay will go from less than $12 an hour to more than $15 an hour.

    "We read a letter like that and we understand the situation that the firefighters are in," Nevels said.

    For years, Nevels said budget problems have meant little or no pay increases for the Fire Rescue workers.

    "We'd like to get in front of this issue before it becomes a problem. Right now we are concerned and we'd like to not get to the 'very concerned' stage," Nevels said.

    The resigning firefighter said by moving to Orange County, he'll make nearly $10,000 more a year doing the same job.

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    Marion County Fire Rescue struggles to keep firefighters