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Two Pierce County fire departments get grants to hire firefighters

Post by Mike Archbold on March 3, 2011 at 10:48 am with 5 Comments »
March 3, 2011 3:38 pm

Two Pierce County fire departments – Tacoma and DuPont – have received federal grants to hire a total of 13 “front line” firefighters to bolster sagging staffing levels.

Tacoma announced today that it received $1,566,699 to pay salary and expenses over the next two years for 10 new firefighters.

The City of DuPont Fire Department received $540,750 in January to hire three new firefighters.

The money comes through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants program. The local departments are among four in the state to receive money.

“It’s great news,” said Tacoma Fire spokesman Joe Meinecke. “We were hoping to get it.”
Meinecke explained that the due to budget constraints the department hasn’t had a recruiting class since 2008 and is down 33 positions from its budgeted staff of 409 firefighters. He said they have enough front line firefughters to maintain a safe minimum number of 72firefighters on duty per shift.

He said city officials authorized a 24-person recruit class that will start next month to begin closing the staffing gap. The federal money now will pay for 10 of those positions.

DuPont Fire Department Operations Chief Greg Cooper said the grant will enable the city to have a minimum of three firefighters available 24/7. Currently there are only two minimum which is not a safe staffing level, he said.

“We were very appreciative of the grant,” Cooper said, “though it’s not surprising. SAFER grants are for departments like our that lost positions due to the economy. We thought we would be successful.”

The hires will up the number of DuPont “front line” firefighters from 9 to 12.

Under terms of the grant, Tacoma is required to support the grant positions for at least a third year.

Due to its size, Cooper said DuPont isn’t required to pay for the third year, adding the city will find a way to keep the positions.

DuPont, Tacoma
Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. Horsehair43 says:

    So more money down the drain. the fed can spend it’s monopoly money but our kids will have to pay it back with their real hard earned inflated dollars. when is this lunacy going to go away?

  2. Get ready for an increase in your taxes,DuPont residents!Now that the Feds have opened the door,expect your leaders to tell you in 2 years when the money runs out, that now you get to raise your tax base to cover the shortage the Govt.left you with.Greg Cooper seems to have an Idea on the city can come up with the additional needed money,at least he said the city will find a way to keep the positions.So Taxpayers of DuPont don’t be supprised to feel a hand in your wallet again.If you argue you will probably be told that the Fire Department will no longer have the manpower to respond to very many fire alarms.This is part of the scare tactics the different authorities seem to use to keep the taxpayers in line. Keep a copy of this letter handy and in 18 months,see what your leaders start telling you!

  3. Greg Cooper made some interesting statements, “We were very appreciative of the grant,” Cooper said, “though it’s not surprising. SAFER grants are for departments like our that lost positions due to the economy. We thought we would be successful.”

    Lets unpack this a little bit. First off one should know that this is the first time DuPont has applied for the “SAFER” Grant, even with the presented findings of Fire Service Task Force (Bob Merritt). I think a citizen group brought it up during those two years and were shot down each time. Could it be that be as a result of the Lakewood Merger talks? And needing more evidence that the city government is incapable of actually thinking for itself?
    In the past 3 years, staffing of city employees in this department was according to the city budget:
    2009: 1 Lieutenant, 6 Firefighters/EMTs
    2010: 3 Lieutenants, 6 Firefighters/EMTs
    2011: 3 Lieutenants, 9 Firefighters/EMTs
    Can someone explain to me how they have lost positions do to this economy? Maybe it’s Lakewood math

    Overall, Congrats to the Fire Department for the positions and best of luck with the EMS levy…you’re going to need it with the way that your leadership is going.

  4. Soundlife says:

    Why do they need so many Lieutenants?
    09 1 LT with 6 ff/emt
    11 3 LTs with 9 ff/emt

    Are you hiring dumber firefighter/emts that need 3X the supervision?

    Oh well, just wait for the joy when the grant money runs out…

  5. PugetSoundFan says:

    Hey Soundlife…Good question…the answer is NO…firefighters aren’t getting dumber and needing more supervision. It’s a function of span of control. Firefighters work 24 hours shifts in three “platoons”. Each day needs someone in charge of the station and responses. A lieutenant is usually in charge of a single fire unit (Ladder, Engine, Medic) that carries an officer and two or three firefighters, while a Captain is in charge of a station as well as one unit (in larger departments). To enter a burning house, there is a state safety law called “two in two out” that requires four firefighters on scene for two to enter a building except for immediate known rescue attempts. DuPont was running 2 firefighters and occasionally a officer to responses. They legally had to wait for staffing to enter a structure. The addition of the firefighters in 2011 will allow each shift to have the required four firefighters including a supervisor at all incidents. This is great news for DuPont and the only way to safely run a fire department.

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