More money means more firefighters coming to Central Pierce Fire & Rescue

A $2.2 million grant will enable Central Pierce Fire & Rescue to hire 10 firefighters and return staffing to what it once was.

The department plans to hire another five firefighters.

“We’re trying to get back to where we once were,” Assistant Chief Guy Overby said.

Years ago, Central Pierce had 250 uniformed personnel. Today, that number has dwindled to 242. The drop means 54 firefighters work each shift — the minimum legally required — compared with the 57 who worked those shifts in the past.

Staffing limitations in 2013 forced the department to take a ladder truck out of operation at its Parkland station. It was reinstated a year later with grant funds.

The department received a $2 million grant in 2012 to hire 11 firefighters on the condition that priority would be given to post-9/11 armed forces veterans and firefighters who had been laid off.

Within the first two days of posting the jobs, 175 people applied. The application period ended with 1,384 candidates.

“That’s the list we’re still working on,” Overby said.

After testing, the list contains 221 names. Finalists are being interviewed and will undergo psychological exams and background checks.

Officials hope the new employees will be at work in early 2017 after going through the 16-week academy.

The hiring is a result of the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money came through on Aug. 16.

Central Pierce is one of 279 agencies nationwide to receive funds this year, and one of nine in Washington.

FEMA also awarded grants to:

▪ Olympia Fire Department, $1.3 million.

▪ Kent Fire, $941,140.

▪ Spokane Fire, $8.6 million.

▪ Chelan County Fire District, $1 million.

▪ Chelan Fire & Rescue, $847,152.

▪ Whatcom County Fire District No. 7, $466,848.

▪ Orcas Island Fire & Rescue, $156,509.

▪ North County Regional Fire Authority in Stanwood, $922,475.

Central Pierce’s grant will fund 10 firefighting positions for two years. Administrators said they’re confident they can continue paying for the positions after that.

It costs nearly $100,000 annually in wages and benefits for one firefighting job, Overby said. That does not include bunker gear, equipment or training.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653