AKRON, Ohio - The Akron Fire Department could begin the process of recruiting a new class of 38 firefighters by the end of the year if a federal grant, requested by the fire chief, is approved.
Chief Robert Ross is awaiting word on SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant application that could award $6,412,538 million to the fire department.
"Awards are expected by the end of September and then will continue through the end of the year," Ross said.
On Wednesday, the department was given a separate SAFER grant worth $6,427,232.
That grant will allow the department to pay the salaries and benefits of 36 firefighters, who were laid off in 2009, but brought back in 2010 after the city got the initial grant. Ross called it a retention grant.
"This provides a little insurance or cushion to make sure we're still able to protect the citizens with an adequately staffed fire department. We were very apprehensive that we might not receive it and ecstatic that we did," Ross said.
Joe Frato, 26, was one of the 36 firefighters laid off three years ago. He took a job as a firefighter in North Carolina, but was thrilled to get his job back with Akron Fire Department.
News of Wednesday's SAFER grant meant the threat of losing his job again is not hanging over his head.
"There's definitely a sense of relief , not only for the 36 of us that got laid off, but also for the new people that got hired on afterward," Frato said.
Akron currently has 325 firefighters. Ross said a city of this size should have between 350 and 360 firefighters.
That's why he's hoping to get lucky again with his second grant request.
"I don't think that the public safety has been significantly degraded, but it can only improve if we have more firefighters," Ross said.
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