The city of Fairborn Fire Department will hire three new firefighters after being awarded nearly $500,000 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency SAFER grant program, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced Thursday.
The city applied for the grant money in 2010 and received notice about a month ago that it would not get the funds.
But Thursday’s announcement that $493,359 will be given to the department was a pleasant surprise to Fire Chief Mike Riley, who said he expects to get official word from FEMA today.
“Something between then and now must have happened where funding became available or a municipality declined the grant,” Riley said. “Our name must have surfaced to be eligible for the award. It’s rather shocking.”
Fairborn City Council is expected to vote to accept the grant money at its Sept. 4 meeting, according to Pete Bales, the city’s public administrative services director.
“We will come up with an operational plan to indeed hire firefighters and it will all go before council for their consideration to approve the grant,” Bales said. “We’ve put a lot of thought into this (Thursday).”
Once council approves the resources — as expected — fire officials will review its current eligible applicant list and set up interviews. Three firefighters will be hired to fill vacant positions that became open due to attrition.
The grant funds will cover the wages and benefits of those new firefighters for two years. There are 48 firefighters on staff, and the annual budget for the department is $5.9 million.
“It’s a big deal because it will substantially open Station #2 more often, which is a good thing for the city,” Riley said.
Fire Station #2, 2200 Commerce Center Blvd., is open about 40 to 50 percent of the time based on available staff. The other three fire stations are open all of the time.
“Firefighters put their lives on the line each day to keep our communities safe,” Brown said in a release. “These new federal resources will help ensure that Fairborn has the skilled responders needed. With so many communities already facing budget shortfalls, critical federal efforts like SAFER are pivotal in keeping our Ohio cities, towns and villages safe.”
The SAFER grant program supports the hiring of firefighters and the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. SAFER grants are awarded directly to volunteer, combination and career fire departments to help the departments increase the number of frontline firefighters.