The Lansing Fire Department will soon be back to full strength, thanks to a $2.3 million federal grant, which will allow the city to rehire eight firefighters who lost their jobs last year.
The department says it's been a tough year with layoffs and budget cuts, but adding eight firefighters back to their ranks will go a long way to boost morale and to keep the public safe.
The Lansing Fire Department is a close-knit community, and it took a big hit last July when it was forced to lay off 11 firefighters.
"We've seen a lot of cuts, demotions, station closures, layoffs," said Capt. Leann Garver with the Lansing Fire Department. "It's been hard on everyone for a whole year and right now we're starting to see a turnaround."
A turnaround in the form of a $2.3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Through attrition, the fire department was able to bring back three of the 11 firefighters let go last year. This grant will enable the department to rehire the remaining eight.
"It's a great feeling knowing that our brothers and sisters are coming back to work after going through 11 months of sacrifice," said Eric Weber, a Lansing firefighter.
Michael Hamel, the emergency management chief for the city of Lansing, says bringing back the firefighters will decrease overtime costs and help improve daily operations.
"It will really help our budget as well as our personnel in the field," said Hamel. "It's an opportunity to have more people doing the job to make it safer for them."
And it will make it safer for the public, as well.
"I think having these guys back will help lighten our work load," said Capt. Garver, who spent a month writing the grant application. "It will help the citizens maybe get some more rigs on the street. It's bigger than all of us. It's for this whole city."
The eight firefighters will have to go through some tests and fill out paperwork before they can get back on the job, but the city hopes to rehire them before August 1st.
The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant will provide $2,279,256 to support the cost of eight firefighters for the next two years. No local matching funds are required for this grant. After two years, the firefighters will be put back into the system under the normal budget process.
However, the fire department is confident it will be able to maintain those positions even after the grant money runs out. With several firefighters retiring in the next few years, it says those eight positions should be pretty stable.