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EMS Grants News and Articles
Date last updated: Wednesday, August 22, 8:57 PST
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Mass. city accepts grant to hire four new firefighters
By Alana Melanson
Sentinel & Enterprise
FITCHBURG, Mass. — The city has been awarded a federal grant of nearly $425,000 that will allow for the hiring of four new firefighters, Fire Chief Kevin Roy said Monday.
The $424,704 grant marks the third year in a row the Fire Department has received a Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Mayor Lisa Wong.
The grant fully covers all pay and benefits for the four new positions over the next two years, Roy said.
"I'm thrilled that the city is receiving our third SAFER grant in three years," Wong said Monday. "This is a tremendous help to the city in order for us to maintain quality services for the community. I think we've been able to do pretty well to weather the economic downturn, and despite massive cuts in state aid, the level of services to the community has remained consistent, and in many cases, we've actually been able to make huge improvements and reach forward."
She and Roy said the fact that the city has received a substantial SAFER grant three years in a row means Fitchburg has made its case quite clear to the federal government that a city of Fitchburg's size needs help putting more firefighters on in order to keep up with its needs.
The grant largely makes up for firefighter positions that have recently been lost through attrition, Roy said.
Five firefighters retired during the last fiscal year, with another retiring last month, and there hasn't been enough money to support hiring new firefighters, he said. "We're still playing catch up, but this is a big plus," Roy said.
The grant will bring the total number of uniformed fire personnel up to 78, he said, but "we're still a long ways away from the 97 we were at a few years ago."
The standard minimum number of firefighters to be on each shift is 15, Roy said, and the city has been operating at 14 in recent years. He said the new positions, which he hopes to have hired by the end of September, should assist in reaching that goal.
He said concessions made by city employees on health insurance and other areas in recent years, in addition to help from grants like SAFER, should allow the city to slowly get back to a level where 80 to 82 firefighters can be maintained affordably.
The new hires will also cut down on overtime the department has to pay, Roy said.
He added that the new positions will stimulate the local economy by giving local people good-paying jobs and a chance to purchase homes and cars, he added.
Roy said he is not worried that the city will not be able to maintain the new hires past the two years the grant covers.
"We've hired 16 people with grants over the last 2 1/2 years, and we've been able to maintain all of them," he said.
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