MINNEAPOLIS --To say staffing issues at the Minneapolis Fire Department have been a hot issue for the past few years would be a gross understatement.

Not even two years ago, under then Fire Chief Alex Jackson the city was letting firefighters go.

"In the fall of 2011, the city council decided to lay off firefighters, now in 2013 they decide we have to hire firefighters. It's very frustrating," Minneapolis Fire Capt. Joe Mattison said Wednesday night.

It's been tumultuous to say the least, those laid off firefighters were added last July when the city got a federal grant.

Then late last summer Mayor R.T. Ryback said he was allocating more money for fire for the next five years.

Why? Because the current ranks are aging.

"They say our average age is approximately in the 40s to mid 40s so we are definitely going to have retirements, a huge number of retirements coming in the next 10 years," Minneapolis Fire Department recruiter and Capt. Melanie Rucker said.

In an interview last summer Fire Chief John Fruetel said 150 current firefighters could retire in the next five years, that is nearly 40 percent of the current department staff.

What that means is, these hires aren't necessarily just adding staff, they are holding the line.

Mattison says short staff is a safety issue he knows firsthand.

"Unfortunately people almost died that night because of low staffing," Mattison said referring to the Walker Church fire last August in southeast Minneapolis.

Mattison responded to that fire and said too few on his rig meant things got missed.

"We had a rapidly growing fire and didn't have water when we needed it," Mattison said.

Mattison suffered major burns to his wrists, back and face.

Four other firefighters were hurt as well.

So that all is to say, more help is needed and welcome on the fire front lines.

The department is accepting applications in person only beginning Thursday at the Armory in northeast Minneapolis. The address is 1025 Broadway Street NE in Minneapolis.

Applications can be filled out at that location on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday Feb. 1st from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 2 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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