One of the main tasks for Douglas County Fire Chief Roderick Jolivette when he took over the job was to replenish personnel.

Like the nation, the county is facing a shortage of firefighters and EMT personnel.

During a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Jolivette announced that the department has 15 firefighter recruits and 24 EMT recruits beginning training.

He was overjoyed that of the new 15 recruits, seven were Douglas County residents and 18 of the 24 EMT recruits were also local residents.

“It was very important to get local involvement,” Jolivette said. “They are invested in the community. We are thankful that they are giving back.”

The new EMT class started Monday and will continue training until Feb. 6.

Several of the recruits will become Advanced EMT personnel.

“They will meet the needs of our department,” Jolivette said. “We are looking to change our response model. They are the highest level on the ambulance.”

Deputy Chief Eric Phillips, who was in charge of picking the recruiting class, said about 70 applicants applied for training.

He said the department was very selective in the recruitment process.

“We do value-based hiring here,” Phillips said. “We are not just looking for people off the streets. We love having people from the community getting involved. We are all one team with one mission.”

Phillips said the county has 54 openings that they are looking to continue to fill.

He said the department does it own training.

“Unlike some of the other areas, we hire and train,” he said. “With some new stations coming on, this is an exciting time in Douglas County. With Chief Jolivette and the deputy chiefs, we are focused on retention and recruiting.”

County leaders thanked the new recruiting class for “answering the call” to serve their community.

“I applauded you for answering the call,” Commissioner Ann Jones Guider said. “I appreciate every one of you. Here is a little advice from an old lady, listen to your peers. Learn from your peers. Stay humble.”

Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones also thanked the new recruits.

“Douglas County is blessed to have you,” she said. “I wish you all the best. You all will change the landscape of Douglas County. You all are trendsetters of this pandemic because you will protect the welfare of the Douglas County citizens.”