KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The International Association of Fire Chiefs is in Kansas City this week for the Fire Rescue International Conference, an event in its 150th year.

Among the discussions at Bartle Hall is a common thread: how to recruit and retain firefighters in the next generation.

Group leadership says its an issue globally as well as local to Kansas City. For example, KCFD did a lot of hiring approaching the year 2000. That means, in the coming years, they will have 50 to 100 people eligible for retirement and replacing them isn’t easy.

“To give you an example, when I came on the job 20 years ago, we took the written exam at the American Royal over by the old Kemper Arena. There was 3,500 applicants there on one day to take a written test. Our last application cycle for the Kansas City Fire Department, we had 250 applicants,” KCFD Battalion Chief Michael Hopkins said.

Donna Black, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, said the workforce has changed following the height of COVID-impact.

“We’re thinking, what do we need to do to better market that this is a great profession – whether you do it volunteer or paid, right? We need folks in our communities that are willing to serve in this capacity,” Black said.

“Some of it is our own fault for not promoting events like this and the things that we do, using the social media platforms that we have and being engaging with the younger generation,” Hopkins said.