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South Hays Fire ready to hire paid responders

By Megan Wehring
megan@haysfreepress.com 

HAYS COUNTY – Population growth and staffing shortages have led South Hays Fire Department to convert from an all-volunteer to combination agency — the last of its kind in the county to do so. 

“When I first got into the fire service, there would be 50 openings and 4,000 applicants,” said Robert Simonson, South Hays fire chief. “Now, fire chiefs I know would post for three positions and got two people to show up.”

On Dec. 19, the Board of Fire Commissioners approved the funding for career firefighting staff for South Hays Fire Department in 2023 — this will convert the agency into a combination department with both career and volunteer staff. 

Photo by Natalie Frels
South Hays Fire Department, which consists of three stations, is looking to hire a total of 18 full-time firefighters. The headquarters is located at Station 11 at 3528 Hunter Road in San Marcos.

Neighboring agencies including San Marcos, North Hays and New Braunfels are in a similar boat of hiring new staff, making the playing field that much more competitive. 

Simonson said that the department has 18 open positions and currently, they are working with a hiring committee to finalize the process. 

“We are all kind of fighting for the same group of candidates so I realize that we are not going to be able to fill these positions overnight; it’s going to take some time. What we decided to do in the interim is hire part-time people just to bring the staffing into the station so we at least have people here,” Simonson said. 

To maintain a standard schedule, the firefighters will be working a 48/96.

“They will be on for two days and off for four days. The reason we chose the 48/96 is it gives them a good home balance and honestly, at the end of the day, mental health and home balance are super important,” Simonson said. “We will be running an A, B and C shift. We will have to hire about six people per shift.”

Photo by Natalie Frels
An increased number of calls is causing South Hays Fire Department, and surrounding agencies, to hire more staff.

Simonson explained that the department found sales tax, earmarked as firefighter safety, to be the best revenue to use to fund hiring more staff. Firefighters will make $54,089 annually and captains will make $64,584 annually. 

For more information about the South Hays Fire Department, visit https://www.southhaysfire.com/ or call Station 11 at 512-754-7963. 

 

About Author

Megan Navarro (formerly Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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