The day was cause for celebration and the families of the new firefighters gathered around to take photos in the hallway of City Hall following the appointments.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Fire Department is now fully staffed with the help of a $1.1 million federal grant.
The City Council on Tuesday confirmed the appointments of nine new firefighters — eight of them additions thanks to the grant and one replacement for a retiring captain.
The hiring gives the department the full complement of about 96 firefighters and was only possible because of a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant to the tune of $1,112,864.
"It is a grant that will pay the salaries and benefits for these new hires for the next two years," said Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.
The nine — Kyle Bailey, Brandon Bailey, Nicholas Teti, Brendan Shank, Shawn Leary, Craig Eggleston, Michael Herman, Timothy Sayers and Stephen Papa — is the largest class of recruits the department has seen in a long time.
Their families packed the City Council chambers, snapping photos and congratulating, to celebrate the additions. That poured into the hallway downstairs where the class gathered for photos.
Czerwinski says the new recruits will now embark on a six-week training program. As the families gathered around, Czerwinski addressed them all with a promise: the department will do everything it can to keep them safe.
"We understand firefighting is a very dangerous job," Czerwinski told the families. "It is our believe that these guys will come home each and every day."
That is the intent of the federal Emergency Management Agency grant. The program was started to enhance local fire department's abilities to keep up with staffing based on standards issued by the National Fire Protection Association.
"We expect some good results from [these recruits] and are happy to have this opportunity," Czerwinski said.
Mayor Linda Tyer says the new firefighters will take over the jobs of firefighters who leave the staff over the next two years, either through retirement or other means. When the grant expires these new firefighters will become city employees — these aren't temporary hires but the overall staffing number is expected to go down if no additional funding is found.
She says the administration will continue to seek out grant opportunities to help bolster the department.
"It is important that we use all of these outside sources to keep us safe," Tyer said. "We will constantly seek opportunities for grants at every level of government."
The additional firefighters aren't the only thing bolstering the department this year. The City Council also approved the purchase of a new ladder truck earlier this year and has gone about two months without one at all. A month ago the department received its Tower 1 truck back from repairs and is waiting on a new truck to be delivered within days.
Tyer has placed public safety as a top priority in her administration and says the focus with the Fire Department has been on equipment. The ladder truck is just one of multiple purchases the city made for firefighting equipment.
In the capital budget, the administration borrowed money for not only the ladder truck but also protective equipment and replaced two command vehicles. In the capital portion of the operating budget, money had been used to buy a new Jaws of Life and a hose washer and dryer. Tyer says her administration has been methodically working at stabilizing both the Police and Fire departments
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