ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Roanoke City's Fire Chief says last year was one of the department's busiest -- because of the uptick in opioid use. Now, to improve their response time to emergencies, the fire-ems team wants to hire more people.
Roanoke City Fire-EMS's goal is to be ready to respond 95-percent of the time.
Over the past year Chief David Hoback says they have fallen below that.
The Chief wants to hire 20 people to help meet the needs of the city.
"We anticipate this to be a large recruit school, between us, Roanoke County and the City of Salem," said Chief Deputy Hoback, Roanoke City Fire-EMS.
Last year the department lowered the hiring age from 21 to18.
They were able to bring on 3 out of 4 recruits that were within that age range.
"It was a very successful program, very proud of it. It gives individuals a chance to go directly into the workforce from high school," said Hoback.
In addition, the department launched a new course for Roanoke City high school students this fall.
The chief says that program has also helped boost their recruitment efforts.
"We have ten students in that, their really engaged and excited about the opportunities, and we have at least two that are interested in making an application," said Hoback.
The Chief says the final factor that will impact the number of positions, is budget approval by the city.
"We just have to wait and see how that unfolds, we have needs, but we have to wait and see where that falls in line with the overarching needs of the city of Roanoke," said Hoback.
Roanoke Fire-EMS is still accepting applications for new recruits, the deadline to apply is March 2.