The New Rochelle Fire Department could soon have six new fire fighters thanks to a $1 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to accept the grant and through a resolution add $109,408 in salaries and fringe benefits to the 2012 fire department budget. The remainder of the grant will be applied to subsequent budgets.
The federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant is designed to enhance the nation's and its cities' preparedness for fire and emergency first responder-related hazards.
Byron Gray, president of the New Rochelle Uniformed Fire Fighters Association, said the grant was a positive development for public safety and the city's taxpayers.
"On behalf of the members of the New Rochelle Fire Department, I would like to thank Mayor Bramson and members of the City Council for their support in seeking the Homeland Security grant to increase fire fighter staffing," Gray said. "This is an important first step toward rebuilding and reversing the significant attrition of our Fire Department, which has seen its staffing cut by 15 percent since 2008."
Mayor Noam Bramson said the city would be required to maintain the new hires and the overall staffing level that existed at the time of the award.
"This is certainly good news and would help us make our fire department younger on average, beef up our personnel and help us reduce overtime as well," he said.
Chief Lou DiMeglio said the average age of the department is 46. There have been no new fire fighters hired since 2008.
He said a study was done of overtime during the period from July 28 through Aug. 27, and it was estimated if the six fire fighters had been employed at the time, there would have been a savings of $37,400 in overtime.
City Manager Charles Strome III said the city has a list of prospective fire fighters and would be hiring soon from that list.
The new recruits would start training in October and be on the force by mid-January.