$9 mil in federal grants for East Bay firefighters

Two Bay Area cities are among 10 statewide that have received sizeable federal grants to boost their numbers of firefighters, members of Congress announced today.

Oakland Fire Department at workOakland got more money from the Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program than any other city in the state in this round of funding: $7,782,240.

“This highly competitive funding is critical to improving public safety and ensuring 24-hour staff coverage by hiring new and laid-off Oakland firefighters,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “As Oakland and our nation continue to recover from the greatest economic downturn since the great depression, federal investments in public sector hiring are critical to moving our economy forward.”

Pinole got $1,239,456.

“This grant is a vital boost to our local fire department which plays such an important safety role in our community,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. “First responders all over California have been hit especially hard by the recent economic downturn and I’m glad to see the federal government stepping in with critical financial resources to help carry out the vital mission of our local firefighters. I congratulate the Pinole Fire Department on winning this grant.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, called Pinole’s grant “a win for the public” as well as the fire department.

“It will enhance public health and safety by making sure our local fire department has the resources and personnel it needs to keep our community safe and respond to fire and fire-related emergencies,” he said. “I am proud to support these grants and thank our firefighters and first responders for their service.”

The SAFER program designed to strengthen the nation’s ability to respond to fire and fire-related hazards and improve the nation’s overall level of preparedness, with the goals of enhancing local departments’ ability to reach and maintain 24-hour staffing and to assure that their communities have adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. In other words – it’s to help the departments increase the number of frontline firefighters, and to rehire firefighters who were laid off due to the economy.

Other cities for which SAFER grants were announced today include:

    El Medio Fire Protection District, Oroville – $312,000
    Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District – $5,632,152
    Santa Rosa Fire Department – $2,560,068
    City of Oxnard – $2,227,581
    Downey Fire Department – $1,886,958
    City of Hesperia Fire Protection District – $2,012,583
    City of San Bernardino Fire Department – $3,055,989
    Colton Fire Department – $1,986,300

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W

    Obviously, Oakland’s large grant is a reward for being such a buttoned-up, well-managed city. Maybe the Port of Oakland will get something too.

    What, nothing for Contra Costa Fire District?

  • Publius

    40% of the grant approx. $3,112,896 was borrowed.

    This money will do nothing to improve services. All it does is buy time. Most of this money will get dumped into the pension rat hole.

    Thompson, Lee and Miller continue to propagate the fiscal irresponsibility.

  • GV Haste

    Just like during the stimulus program, we continue to subsidize excessively outlandish public safety employee salaries.
    The reason why Oakland Fire Dept is understaffed is because it costs $185,000 on average for each firefighter (that is before overtime is added in)

    If firefighters were paid a similar (inflation adjusted) salary + benefits as they got back in the 70’s and 80’s (remember inflation adjusted), then Oakland could hire from 10% to 20% more staff with their current money.
    I grew up around lots and lots of firemen back from 1960 through 1980 and they never had the standard of living they now enjoy.

    Meanwhile as we dumped billions into proping up city and county public employees, delaying the cutbacks, during the first years of this recession, the folks at the bottom got crushed. For a fireman’s $185,000 subsidized salary, you could have given 4 or 5 out of work people some decent jobs with enough money to get by.

    By comparison, I know a person in a department who retired 2 years ago, well short of age 60, with a pension north of 140k…. while they never earned even 115K on the job for base pay. Sick excess subsidized once again.

    Many, though not all, public employees are overpaid when you count in all the salary, benefits, and pension costs. Rather than hold down salaries, they tend to lay off staff, then complain about how service is suffering. Witness San Jose police and fire.
    I still remember their arrogance in San Jose when cutbacks were needed. A firefighter was all pissed off saying the citizens didn’t respect him.
    Yes, a quick check of his compensation for the prior year placed him over $200,000. Disgusting arrogance.

    If you put out a help wanted ad for OFD, at 75% of the pay scale and 75% of the pension, you’d have 10,000 appplications for 10 jobs.
    Says everything about how out of whack the compensation has become.