"The bottom line is that having more firefighters means a safer community," Mayor Alvin Brown said Tuesday in announcing the grant. "This federal grant will allow us to put dozens of trained, frontline firefighters on the job to protect homes and businesses."
The city still has ground to make up from where the fire department stood five years ago. Back then, the department had funding for 1,258 uniformed positions. That has dropped to 1,211 this year. Moreover, 91 of those positions stand vacant.
Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt said the budget squeeze on hiring firefighters has forced the department to increase overtime pay in order to ensure adequate staffing at fire stations across the city. Firefighters are forgoing leave time in order to fill the gaps, he said.
"These 67 firefighters will make a big difference to us," Senterfitt said, joining Brown for the announcement at station No. 1 on Liberty Street in downtown. "It will make it easier for the men and women of this department to perform their duties. It will make it safer for them, also."
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