St. Cloud to add 9 new firefighters
By Tiffanie Reynolds
The city of St. Cloud will be adding nine new firefighter positions in the near future through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant.
The grant gives the city’s fire rescue department $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to cover wages and benefits for nine firefighters for two years.
This increase in firefighters would not only will improve the efficiency and response times for St. Cloud Fire Rescue, but also help to lower the city’s rating in the Public Protection Classification Program Insurance Services Office. That would lower insurance costs for a majority of residents in St. Cloud, city officials said.
“With the SAFER grant, we not only increase our response times, but we also increase the public safety too. Because with coming out of a bad economy, and not having as much staff that we needed to, this is a big boost for the city,” said City Council Member Jeff Rinehart.
The grant took 80 hours of work to complete. Fire Chief Bill Sturgeon, the city grants writer and an additional member of the St. Cloud Fire Rescue put the city’s application for the grant together.
Adequate staff for fire rescue and emergency medical technicians has been an issue in St. Cloud for the past three to four years, according to Sturgeon. Currently, fire engines are staffed with two firefighters responding to emergencies, which is only enough to control the fire from outside. An ambulance with an additional two firefighters travels with them, depending on the amount of staff available during the time of the emergency. That’s below the recommended number of firefighters needed during an emergency, according to the state adopted Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection, which requires two people fighting the fire and another two on standby if the firefighters in the fire need assistance or rescue.
“We’ve had limited staffing. You know, we were actually riding two-person engine companies, which is way outside the best practices in the industry. We’re going to staff some of our units with four people because we know that’s safer for the firefighter,” Sturgeon said.
For the city, the next challenge with this grant is to budget funds to keep the nine new positions. Grant money for wages and benefits for the new firefighters only last two years, leaving the responsibilities to keep these new firefighters to the city. Councilman Donald Shroyer said that the city is currently working on funding for these positions, as an extended fire rescue staff has been a goal for the city for many years.