FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – It’s news that the Fresno Fire Department has waited a long time to hear: the federal government has awarded them $12.6 million through the SAFER grant, which will allow them to hire 42 new firefighters.
It’s an upgrade Shane Brown says they’ve needed for years.
“We have the same staffing model that we had in 1980. In 1980, we had 80 firefighters on duty per day. It’s 2021, we have 81. In 1980, the population was 218,000. Today, it’s 540,000. This is a fire department in the fifth-largest city in the state, 44th in the nation. We need to catch up,” Brown said.
The news comes amidst one of the busiest fire seasons the city has ever seen. According to Brown, already this year there have already been more than 5,000 fires and 66 instances where there were multiple structure fires at once.
“Some departments don’t have 66 fires in a year, and that’s 66 times where we had multiple fires going on across the city needing resources,” he said.
The SAFER grant will pay for the salaries of all 42 firefighters for three years. After that, it’s up to the city to absorb the cost of keeping them on the payroll.
Right now, the department has just over 300 firefighters. Between the population and fire activity, Brown says Fresno really needs 500-600.
“That is something that’s been adopted by the city. It’s been recognized as the need that this city will need as a fire department as a whole to provide a level of service that’s a nationally recommended standard,” he said.
If all goes well, Brown says they’ll hire and train the 42 firefighters by early next year.