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Federal grant allows city of Surprise to hire 8 new firefighters

(Facebook Photo/Surprise Fire-Medical Department)

PHOENIX – The Surprise Fire-Medical Department announced Wednesday it received a federal grant to hire eight full-time firefighters, which could lead to the reinstatement of an engine taken out of service.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) program awarded nearly $1.4 million to the department in September.

The grant will cover most of the training and salary costs for the eight new hires for two years and about half the costs for a third year, according to a Surprise press release.

That’s in addition to five new firefighters funded through the West Valley city’s current budget, the release said.

“These eight new firefighters, in addition to the five new firefighter positions in the current budget year, will all be providing service in the city of Surprise by June 2020,” Fire Chief Tom Abbott told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email.

“The positions will allow us flexibility in staffing at that time, including the potential for adding an engine at Fire Station 305 until the new Fire Station 308 opens.”

Engine 305 was recently taken out of service despite opposition by the Surprise Firefighters Association. Now that the federal grant has been awarded, the group was optimistic about what comes next.

“We are excited by the collaborative efforts of the city, fire chief and fire association to provide some guidance on a future plan to staff E305,” the association told KTAR News in a joint statement with the city.

“The award of a federal SAFER grant for eight firefighters helps us achieve a common goal of providing the best possible public safety.”

Discussions about using Engine 305 on a full-time basis will be part of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget process, which begins in November, the city’s press release said.

Twelve of the new hires will eventually be assigned to Fire Station 308, which is scheduled to open in late 2021 or early 2022, the release said.

The 13 additions will bolster the Surprise Fire-Medical Department’s 124 existing positions, Abbott said.

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