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Alameda firefighters may get big staffing grant

Submitted by on 1, May 17, 2010 – 5:00 amNo Comment

The Alameda Fire Department is a finalist for a federal grant that could pay the full salaries and benefits of six fire department personnel for the next two years.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant would be $1.763 million for two years, money that would allow the department to hire fire personnel to fill positions left dark by layoffs and attrition over the past two years. If the city accepts the grant, they will be required to maintain fire staffing at 24 firefighters per shift over the next two years.

“Even in tough times, government’s first responsibility is the safety of its citizens. We believe that by restoring these firefighter positions, the safety of the community and the safety of the firefighters will be improved from what the current staffing levels provide,” Domenick Weaver, president of the Alameda Firefighters IAFF Local 689 said in a press release.

The City Council will decide Tuesday whether to give Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant permission to accept the grant. Once the city submits a final questionnaire to the feds, approval could come in a week, Weaver said.

The grants are in place to help maintain fire department staffing and, in turn, homeland security preparedness and fire response. The federal Department of Homeland Security has $210 million to award this year, and it expects to hand out around 200 grants this year.

The grants were put in place to help cash-strapped professional and volunteer fire departments maintain response levels and emergency response times.

The Alameda Fire Department’s response times dropped in 2009 after the department implemented engine company brownouts and then shuttered its Station 5 at Alameda Point in order to conserve cash. The city cut 11 filled and vacant fire department positions, including two firefighting positions and three fire apparatus operator positions, when city leaders made a round of layoffs in May 2009.

Weaver said the department will seek to fill the positions – two firefighters, three apparatus operators and a fire captain – from a statewide list of laid-off firefighters. He said the new staff should help response times, particularly in the West End, and lower the department’s oft-criticized overtime costs.

“Basically, all the city has to (pay) is what it costs them to process them for hiring and buying them a set of protective equipment,” Weaver said. He said the money the city would save in overtime would cover those costs inside of two months.

In other news, the department has released some nifty new public service announcements (we’ve got one above).

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