FRESNO, California. (KGPE) – The Fresno Fire Department battled 62 fires on Saturday and Sunday, including the 30,000 square foot Neighborhood Thrift warehouse that burned to the ground.
The warehouse fire required 63 out of 81 on-duty firefighters. That leaves 18 for the rest of the city.
“If you look at Los Angeles City – if they had an industrial fire with four alarms on it, they would likely have had close to 300 firefighters on that fire. That’s more firefighters than we have employed,” Deputy Chief Ted Semonious said.
Semonious said public safety already takes up the majority of the city’s general fund revenue, and without a tax base to support an increase, it’s difficult to hire more firefighters.
That’s why the department has applied for the Safer Grant from the federal government, which would allow them to hire 42 new firefighters within the next 10 months. However, it would still cost the department.
“The federal government would pay the salaries of those firefighters for three years, but we still have to pay for the training, the rookie school, and some of the other things… Then, we have to find a way in our general fund to support paying those firefighters after the grant money runs out,” Semonious said.
According to Semonious, the goal is to have .81 firefighters per 1,000 residents, which would leave Fresno Fire with 425 firefighters. Right now, the department has roughly 300.
“At that point, we’ll have sufficient – hopefully have sufficient – people on duty to handle all of the emergencies that we have at any given time,” he said.
They’re hoping to hear about the grant in mid-July.