It's a problem years in the making: a troubled pension fund combined with tempting jobs in other cities is sapping the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department of hundreds of firefighters.
"We've had some pretty significant attrition, and we've also had some employees leaving to join other agencies," said Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief David Coatney.
Coatney says the department is currently about 168 "uniformed members" below its "optimal" staffing of 1,946. The shortage has caused a surge in overtime that the department estimates will result in a $1.2 million overage by the end of the fiscal year.
"Obviously it's had a pretty adverse impact on our budget, but there are typically salary savings because you've lost employees at the same time, so you can usually off set that," Coatney said.
The chief says no one thing is to blame for the shortfall, and recruitment of new firefighters is trending up. The department currently has 115 cadets scheduled to graduate and enter the field in April, off setting a large portion of their recent losses.