By Ed Runyan
The Warren Fire Department has been denied a replacement Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant and is making plans to have six fewer firefighters starting May 27, when the current grant expires.
That will mean one to two fewer firefighters per shift but not the closure of any of the three fire stations, officials said Monday during a Warren City Council committee meeting.
That should not result in “any change in service,” Fire Chief Ken Nussle said. One reason is the department soon will put into service a new all-purpose firetruck that can fight fires and handle other emergencies with just three people instead of the two trucks and six firefighters that are dispatched to most calls now.
The department has 61 firefighters but will drop to 55 May 27. That is still four more than the department had in 2009, when it was first approved for the SAFER grant.
The grant was used in 2010 to pay the salaries and benefits of 10 firefighters laid off in 2009 and hire 13 new ones. The department had not used all of the grant as of 2012, so it got a one-year extension that will end May 26.
The department also applied for another SAFER grant to fill in when the current one ends, but the federal government denied that application, said Enzo Cantalamessa, Warren safety-service director.
It’s unfortunate for the six firefighters who will be laid off, but they knew when they were hired that there was a chance they would not be retained, Cantalamessa said.
Mayor Doug Franklin noted that the fire department has done a lot of work on fire prevention since two deadly house fires in recent years, and also that should help the department get along with fewer firefighters.
One program, called SALSA (Save A Life Smoke Alarm), has provided hundreds of free smoke detectors to Warren residents and educated the public about fire safety.