(TNS) - The Chula Vista, Calif Fire Department will be able to bolster its force through a federal grant and additional money from the city.
The $2.3 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security, combined with $1.4 million in city funding, will be used to hire 12 firefighters over the next three years.
The new firefighters will not be on the streets until May 2018 because it will take time to recruit, hire and train in the four-month fire academy.
The city’s fire union president, Darrell Roberts, called receipt of the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant “a tremendous win for our community and our firefighters.”
Roberts said labor and management are working together to decide in which stations the firefighters will be placed. The decision and will be based on call volume, response times, and injury rates.
“With adding the fourth firefighter on our engine companies, the hiring of additional firefighters, and opening up new fire stations we should see a reduction of response times and on scene times,” Roberts said.
The union has advocated for an increase in staffing for the last few years, specifically adding a fourth person to its engines, also known as 4-0 staffing.
Roberts said the public will notice an immediate increase in the level of service at four of its engine companies.
“This (grant) will keep fires smaller and lesson damage in homes and businesses,” Roberts said. “It also makes our inherently dangerous job much safer.”
He said adequate staffing is the most critical factor in fire service operations.
Chula Vista’s Growth Management ordinance requires the Fire Department and medical units to respond to calls throughout the city within seven minutes at least 80 percent of the time.
Fire Department response times have failed to meet the standard for six consecutive years, according to the city’s 2016 Growth Management Oversight Commission.
Adding a fourth person also reduces fire company “on-scene” time and allow firefighters to enter a burning structure and attack right away, instead of waiting for another truck to arrive as it does now.
The “two-in, two-out” rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires two firefighters to remain outside for backup while the two head inside.
The Fire Department’s nine stations respond to nearly 19,000 calls for service annually, covering 52 square miles.
Chula Vista has 114 firefighters in a city of about 265,000.
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