CLAREMONT — The Fire Department has been granted more than half a million dollars to fund three new fulltime positions for the next two years.
The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response or SAFER Grant for $552,264 was granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday.
City Manager Guy Santagate said Monday he is delighted with the grant and credited Fire Chief Rick Bergeron for continuing to apply for the grant for the past six years.“He’s done a great job,” he said. “We have major equipment that a lot of area towns don’t have,” Santagate said.
As a result, Claremont firefighters often respond to calls for mutual aid to bring needed equipment, he said. “I think that might have helped with the grant, too.”
The department has 19 full-time positions. The three new positions will be filled right way.
According to FEMA, the SAFER grant was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained firefighters available in their communities by enhancing a department’s ability to comply with staffing, response and operational standards established by the National Fire Protection Association.
“It’s a meat and potato program; it’s no frills,” Santagate said.
The fire department was downsized more than 10 years ago and never brought back up to its previous staffing level, Santagate said.
“In 2001 when I came up to the city, the budget was not sustaining, period. At that time, I laid off 21 fulltime employees of a staff of 138,” Santagate said, four of those were full-time firefighters.
“We have a great fire department,” Santagate said. “I’m pleased that we were able to give them more resources and bring them up to a standard that they belong at.”
The department plans to retain the new employees even after the two-year funding runs out, Santagate said.
“We’ll be looking to support that on our own at the end of the funding period,” Santagate said.