Federal grant helps fill gaps in Fort Worth Fire Department budget

02/20/2014 6:05 PM

02/20/2014 6:06 PM

The city received a $3.38 million federal grant Thursday that will be used to help fill vacant positions left open in the Fort Worth Fire Department during budget cutbacks last year.

The department lost 24 positions through attrition in the 2014 budget, said Richard Harrison, public information officer for the department.

By leaving those jobs open administrative staff — including trainers, investigators and public education teams — had to work on a rotating basis with fire companies to guarantee the city had adequate fire protection.

Response times were not affected because of the cuts, Harrison said, but the grant money will allow the department to fill those vacant positions.

The plan of rotating those administrative or support positions out to the field eliminated any potential for deactivations,” said Harrison. “Everyone was asked to pitch in and help out with that.”

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, announced that the city got the funds through a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response — or SAFER — federal grant. The grant can be used to increase or maintain the number of front-line firefighters in local communities, a release from her office states.

“The Fort Worth Fire Department is a worthy recipient of this SAFER grant. This grant program assists communities across the country to ensure they have enough trained firefighters on duty to meet the many demands placed on our first responders,” Granger said in a prepared statement.

“This grant is an investment in the future of Fort Worth. As Fort Worth continues to grow, it’s of vital interest to make sure our increase in population is equally met with the appropriate number of fire and emergency response personnel on duty at any given time.”

The grant program is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Grant Program Directorate and supports rehiring laid-off firefighters, retaining firefighters, hiring new firefighters and paying the salaries and benefits of those hired with grant funds over the two-year award period.

The Fire Department was originally facing a $3.8 million cut during budget talks, but the department warned that would lead to a deactivation of four companies a day. A company is one vehicle and its crew.

The city’s budget office restored half of that money, and Fire Chief Rudy Jackson said then the department could make do by rotating the administrative personnel.

The 2014 budget eliminated a total of 113 positions and used projected gains in property and sales tax and a small use of one-time savings to bridge a shortfall.

The report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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