The Five Cities Fire Authority plans to hire three fire engineers and three firefighters with a more than $1.1 million federal grant.
The fire authority’s board recently gave the go-ahead to start recruiting for the new employees, who must be hired and start work by Sept. 22.
Once hired, the authority will have 21 full-time fire engineers and captains and about 25 reserve firefighters. With six new employees, the department can add a full-time firefighter to its Arroyo Grande station and a full-time fire engineer to the Oceano station.
Fire officials with the South County department have long wanted to increase the authority’s staffing level to meet a national standard of having at least 15 fire personnel respond to a residential structure fire within eight minutes.
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The grant will allow the department to come closer to that standard with its own personnel and reduce its dependency on mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire departments, fire Capt. PJ Ferguson said.
Fire authority officials thanked U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, for writing a letter of support for the grant.
“This federal funding will go a long way to ensuring the Five Cities Fire Authority can keep its firefighters on the job and ensure the public’s safety,” Capps said in a news release.
The next step for fire officials is to determine what they’ll do after the funding from the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program ends in two years.
Fire officials have already started talking about several options, such as seeking to raise funds by forming a fire protection district, or proposing an assessment.
The Five Cities Fire Authority was formed in July 2010 and covers about 38,000 residents in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano and Halcyon. The communities share the agency’s approximately $3.6 million annual cost.
Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929.