Lakeland firefighters relieved to work less overtime as COVID-19 surge slows

Lakeland firefighters, like many of their brethren, are working fewer hours these days. It's a welcome reprieve from the long shifts and overtime they endured during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant of the virus.

In the early months of summer, one out of three Lakeland firefighters contracted the virus and was out of work. That meant fellow firefighters had to pick up the slack by working mandatory overtime. Their shifts went from 24 to 48 hours – long, stressful hauls according to paramedic Derek McBrayer.

"It is a pain because if you have arrangements already made, planned to go somewhere, or you have a class, or you have childcare, anything like that, it can be very frustrating," he told FOX 13.

It was a widespread problem.

"You could see 10 to 12 working mandatory [overtime] daily," said Lakeland Fire Assistant Chief Michael Williams said.

Now that the number of new COVID-19 cases is beginning to decrease, so is the pressure on firefighters to pull double shifts.

"I am happy to say that today, we do not have a single person working overtime," said Williams.

During the recent surge, to keep as many people on the street as possible, Lakeland Fire also cut back on all non-essential services, such as public presentations, big in-house training sessions, and routine inspections. Those services are about to start being rolled back out.