City Expects To Hire 25 Firefighters With Federal Funds
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
July 02, 2012
HARTFORD — — The city fire department has been awarded $3.4 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to hire more firefighters over the next two years — the largest federal grant to be given to a fire agency in Connecticut, officials said Monday.
Fire Chief Edward Casares Jr. said his department will hire 25 employees with the SAFER funds, a program managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase the number of front-line firefighters.
Job interviews would likely begin this fall, Casares said, with many of the new hires replacing those who have left the department.
There are have been 20 retirements since January, and another 43 out of 320 Hartford firefighters are eligible to retire, he said.
"This grant will help us stay on pace with the attrition rate. Without it, we'll be in trouble," said Casares, citing the possibility of heavy overtime costs — "a burden on taxpayers" — at a time when the city is already experiencing fiscal difficulties.
When the grant runs out, "we will operate as we always do, with careful planning and analysis," said Jared Kupiec, the mayor's chief of staff.
The Southington Fire Department also will receive $720,556 under SAFER, which stands for Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response.
Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Richard Blumenthal joined Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, in announcing the funds Monday during a press conference with Mayor Pedro Segarra and Casares.
Standing outside the Hartford Fire Department Training Academy, Lieberman said there is a "moral responsibility" to provide "a safe number of colleagues" for firefighters.
The senator, noting that Hartford has recently been awarded several federal grants, also directed a playful dig at the city's de facto chief lobbyist.
"I say this affectionately," Lieberman told Segarra, "but you've become quite a pest."
Dave Parr, a fire program specialist for FEMA, said Hartford's grant is one of the largest awarded in the Northeast.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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