But much-needed relief could soon be on the way.
The Fresno City Council approved a federal grant that would mean dozens of new firefighters.
Station 3 in downtown is one of the busiest in the city, so it’s one of the stations that will benefit the most from this grant – more equipment and staff that could help crews get to medical emergencies and fires more efficiently.
In the last year, Fresno City Firefighters have stepped up to respond to a record number of calls – 1,100 in the last two months alone.
“We have doubled our fire calls in the last year. This city has a fire problem and we are trying to get on top of it,” says Fresno Fire Department Chief Kerri Donis.
While the city of Fresno has grown, the fire force has not.
“Today we have 81 firefighters on duty each day. That’s the same amount that the city had in 1980 when we had half the population and half the call volume,” says Donis.
But this week the grant could bring relief.
Fire Captain John Creasy says the promise of over 40 new firefighters through the federal SAFER grant feels long overdue.
“There was a great sense of relief, that we are moving in the right direction. We have been keeping our head above water for decades,” says Creasy.
The federal dollars also mean the three busiest stations in town will be equipped with squad trucks similar to this one – from a Massachusetts fire department. Squads will be designated specifically for medical calls so that large engines can be freed up to respond to fires.
“To have free firefighters for three years, to build up our staffing level, is going to go along way to endure the safety of our community,” says Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer.
Though the grant could save Fresno as much $7 million, it’s an opportunity that the city’s passed on before because after the grant runs out, the city will have to pick up the cost for bringing on the additional firefighters.
Mayor Jerry Dyer says he’s betting on Fresno’s growth.
“We are poised in Fresno to be able to be one of the fastest rebounding economies in the nation post-pandemic and that’s what is going to allow us to support those firefighters in the future,” he says.
Fire Chief Kerri Donis says when the grant money comes in, training will begin almost immediately. Drill school for the 40+ firefighters is set to begin as soon as July.
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