WILMINGTON -- There's been some controversy surrounding the Wilmington fire department over the last few weeks. Firefighters asked the city council for higher wages and more help, but did they come through? The City says they did grant these requests, giving Wilmington firefighters a salary boost and much-needed trainers to help them do what they do best. Wilmington firefighters say they not only have the hottest job in town, they also have the toughest. Firefighter Chris Small said, "If you're not trained properly to go into a burning building, you're putting your life at risk. You also put the lives of other firefighters in jeopardy and also the public." While the state only requires firefighters to train for 36 hours each year, these guys work year-round, racking up more than 200 training hours. It's a tough job for the trainer himself, who says he's been running a one-man show until now. The City has provided funding to hire three more firefighter trainers. Fire Training Division Chief Chris Nelson said, "It's already a difficult enough job to keep more than 200 firefighters trained at the level they need to be trained at. And that's just basic fire training. So, I feel better knowing that we have the people out there to know they're getting the training they deserve." Nelson says the new trainers are already getting put to work. A group of recruits is already in training, testing strength, agility and basic fire skills. "Training is the number one priority at the fire department," Nelson said. Wilmington Fire officials say things are a little different here since the deaths of nine firefighters in nearby Charleston, S.C. They say firefighters are more aware and are taking extra precautions before stepping into action.
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