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Auburn hiring five new firefighters through federal grant

Positions will bring district back up to 2009 staffing levels
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn Fire Department is on the fast-track to recruiting five new full-time firefighters. The entry-level positions are being funded by a $681,900 federal grant. The funds will enable the department to restore staffing to the level it was at the beginning of 2009, as well as add three positions beyond that. Local government officials and Placer County emergency services officials say the grant will benefit Auburn and the surrounding areas. ?Because of the economic impact either folks are laying people off or they sure don?t have the ability to hire additional people,? said Auburn Fire Chief Mark D?Ambrogi. ?Our workload, the response load, sure isn?t decreasing, it?s actually increasing.? Auburn was one of many fire departments across the nation to receive the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the current fiscal year. FEMA has more than $380 million of grants available through the program this year. The five new positions will be funded through the grant for two years and the city has no commitment to rehire the personnel after that. The grant will fund a $3,791 per month salary, plus medical benefits for the entry-level positions. There will be no cost to the city aside from the costs associated with the recruitment process. D?Ambrogi said Tuesday that the positions will be posted on the city?s website soon, but gave no definite date. Applicants will find instructions when the position is posted there, but will eventually be mailing in their packets or dropping them off. He anticipates the new firefighters will start at the end of September if everything goes according to plan. ?It?s basically going to give us more people on the ground, at least on that daily operational level,? D?Ambrogi said. Aside from having more firefighters to respond to calls, D?Ambrogi said personnel will participate in special projects such as collecting and entering data for a Digital Pre-Planning System. Currently, firefighters use binders to examine facilities ahead of time and identify elements in them, including electrical boxes. The digital system is anticipated to make pre-planning more efficient when responding to fires, D?Ambrogi said. Target recruitment for the positions will include current Auburn Volunteer firefighters, veterans of post 9/11 and minorities. D?Ambrogi said everyone will be given an equal opportunity during the hiring process, though. Among the qualifications desired in candidates are experienced volunteer firefighting, basic firefighter training, EMS First Responder, First Aid and CPR certificate and wild land firefighting certification. ?This department has always strategically planned to grow in size, so it?s coming to fruition at this point,? D?Ambrogi said. ?This gives us a great opportunity to really see what our department is capable of.? Auburn Mayor Kevin Hanley agreed that the additional staff would help make Auburn even safer. ?I appreciate the fire chief's efforts to obtain this grant,? Hanley said. ?I think it will help the city over the next two years take additional actions to prevent a catastrophic fire and respond in a timely manner to medical emergencies.? Rui Cunha, assistant director of emergency services for Placer County, said with lower property tax revenue in North Auburn-Ophir and the failure of Measure D, a recent initiative to raise taxes for fire services, the county will likely apply for the SAFER Grant in the hope of not having to reduce staffing levels there. He added that other local fire agencies, including Foresthill, Higgins and Placer Hills have had to make cutbacks, for which grants could help fill the gap. With so many fire districts across the nation impacted by the economy, though, Cunha said the competition for grants will be high. ?We will not have as many fire resources in western Placer County certainly going into next fire season,? Cunha said. ?Any SAFER grant that any jurisdiction is successful with, and hopefully multiple are successful with, will at least buy us another couple of years in maintaining that capability.? Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.