ST. GEORGE – A federal grant awarded to the St. George Fire Department this month will allow for the hiring of nine new full-time firefighters. It’s the first time the Fire Department has received the grant in nearly a decade.
The $993,672 grant was issued through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will be matched with $600,000 from the city of St. George. The nearly $1.6 million will be used to cover the cost of the firefighters’ salaries and benefits for the first three years.
“It really assists fire departments in getting the full-time staff you need,” St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said, adding it would be hard for a fire department’s budget to absorb so many hires at one time.
The nine firefighters are needed to help the department keep up with the city’s continuing growth. Stoker said the additional full-timers will likely be stationed at the fire station being built in the Little Valley area, which would become the city’s fourth full-time staffed station.
The St. George Fire Department currently has 33 full-time firefighters.
Having an adequate number of firefighters is the primary focus of the grant, which is officially titled the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or “SAFER” grant.
“It’s a very competitive grant,” Stoker said. Fire departments from across the country apply for the grant and must meet strict requirements stretched across a 23-page application.
Some of the required information includes the size of the area the Fire Department covers, a breakdown of all the emergency calls they run to, what type of infrastructure and area hazards the fire department deals with, and so on.
Once approved, grant funds are awarded in various rounds. St. George was awarded its grant in the fourth round.
While St. George is getting nearly $1 million, other fire departments, like the Village of Warsaw Fire Department in New York, was awarded $41,900, while the Philadelphia Fire Department was awarded $16 million.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a large metro area like Philadelphia, Los Angeles or St. George, we all need assistance in getting those firefighters hired,” Stoker said.
The St. George Fire Department was awarded the SAFER grant twice before, once in 2005 and again in 2009.
“We appreciated the assistance of the grants to get those firefighters hired,” Stoker said.
The Fire Department has 180 days from the time the grant was awarded – Aug. 10 for St. George – to hire the needed firefighters.
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