A new grant could allow the Springfield Fire Department to expand service to the city by adding more personnel. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Program (SAFER) grant worth $654,505 means another seven firefighters.
“This grant gives us an opportunity to bring members on board and to enhance the delivery of services to the city we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Fire Chief Chad Pennington said.
The grant funding is incumbent upon approval by the Springfield City Council, which will consider the measure at its September 5 meeting.
The funding would provide the salaries and benefits of the seven new firefighters for three years. It can only be used for staffing purposes and not to build a new station. According to Pennington, the grant would offset the city’s cost to hire more firefighters.
Pennington says while SFD could move its assets around to better serve high risk areas, adding firefighters gives the department more flexibility.
“We have some stations with more than one fire unit there but we are critical in our assessment of our deployment,” Pennington said. “We rely heavily on what’s known as our standard of cover through our accreditation body that tells us where our resources need to be based on the data.”
Although SFD has identified a need for a new fire station in the West Central Neighborhood, Pennington said there is still some ground to cover before that can happen. As of now, new firefighters would be deployed to stations that border areas of highest need, he says.
“There is no funding stream to build a fire station,” Pennington said. “That’s a conversation that’s happening now concerning level property tax.”
Pennington is hopeful funding for a new station there can be found.
As for the SAFER grant, if approved, Pennington hopes the department will be able to retain the firefighters hired at the end of the 3-year term. Upon completion of the department’s two previous SAFER grants, received in 2009 and 2012, it was able to retain the new firefighters it hired through the city’s general fund.