The Manassas City Council has accepted a federal grant that will boost the city’s fire and rescue department and bring it in line with national staffing standards.
The $1.4 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response ( SAFER) grant will allow the fire and rescue department’s new chief to hire 12 additional people. The grant covers the positions for two years, but the city will be responsible for funding them in 2014, to the tune of $755,000, Manassas Fire Chief Brett Bowman said.
Manassas was awarded the grant this year, and the council had 60 days to decide whether or not to accept it. Council members said they recognized the need, but also needed to look at the cost commitment associated with the third year of the grant.
“If we don’t approve this, we will really be missing an opportunity,” Manassas Council Member Sheryl L. Bass (R ) said. “This is an investment and something the community is asking for.”
The grants help departments nationwide to increase their staffing in critical operating units, Bowman said. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that every engine have at least four fire and rescue members when it arrives at a scene. In Manassas, that doesn’t often happen, fire and rescue officials said.
The Manassas Fire and Rescue Department has about 40 uniformed fire and rescue members, Bowman said. When not including volunteers, the city’s ladder truck has four firefighters on it 15 percent of the time it goes out on calls. With the grant, the truck would be staffed to national standards 90 percent of the time. The engine company provides four firefighters per unit 45 percent of the time. The grant would increase that to 75 percent, Bowman said.
Bowman said having four people on a unit increases everyone’s safety, is more efficient and more effective.
“This grant is intended to improve the safety of citizens and the fire and rescue providers,” Bowman said. “Time is critical in emergency situations and the addition of these people could be the difference between life and death.”
Several neighboring jurisdictions have four people on their engine, ladder and rescue trucks most of the time, including Prince William, Loudoun and Fairfax counties, fire and rescue officials said.
Bowman said the search for new employees is underway, and officials hope to have people hired within the next few months.