Homeland Security grant allows Atlanta to hire 47 new firefighters

Nearly 50 new Atlanta firefighters are slated to be hired as part to a $5.6 million federal grant that the Atlanta fire chief said would “improve and maintain our status as one of the most accomplished firefighting operations in the country.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced this week that the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department was awarded a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“With this award, the department will be able to move forward in executing their strategic plan, which includes recruiting new firefighters and enhancing their capabilities to respond to emergencies and protect public safety,” Reed said.

The SAFER grant program was born in 2004 out of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks where hundreds of New York City firefighters were killed at the World Trade Center. It would be the second time under Reed's administration that the city has been awarded a SAFER grant. In 2011, the city got $9.8 million to hire 75 new firefighters.

With the new grant, AFRD Chief Joel Baker will be able to hire 47 new firefighters, bringing the total number in the department – including officers – to 1,116 working in 35 fire stations, including five stations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

It will also, Baker said, assure that each outgoing engine and ladder truck is staffed with at least four firefighters.

Federal guidelines attached to the grants require the city to begin recruiting within the next 180 days, but Baker said the process will start as early as Oct. 6. After completing a ten-month training program, the salaries for the firefighters will start at $35, 255.

“The SAFER grant will enable the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department to recruit more quality women and men to join our family,” Baker said. “As we are able to put more experienced, knowledgeable firefighters in the field, we are better able to protect the safety of our residents and visitors.”