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New grant could help relieve Alexandria’s overworked firefighters

The Alexandria Fire Department responding to a blaze in the 100 block of E. Del Ray Avenue on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria’s City Council is looking to a federal grant to help relieve some of Alexandria Fire Department’s (AFD) chronic understaffing.

The city is applying for a grant for $6.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund 25 additional firefighter positions for AFD.

The money would come from the Staffing for Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, which provides funding to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations struggling to meet industry minimum standards and to maintain 24-hour staffing.

“The goal of this grant application is to fund 25 new firefighter positions in the AFD,” a memo from Fire Chief Corey Smedley said. “As part of the City’s collective bargaining agreement, the department is transitioning from a 56 to 50-hour work week. Hiring up to 25 new firefighters will provide staffing relief and reduce the need for overtime with the goal of safer working conditions.”

Smedley said AFD previously used SAFER grant funding to reach four-person staffing on fire engines and ladder trucks.

“A SAFER grant will pay for the salary and benefits of the positions for the first three years, then requires the locality to fully fund the positions in the fourth year,” Smedley wrote.