Rochester Hills Fire Chief Sean Canto said the Fire Department will use the federal grant to hire eight full-time-equivalent firefighters during a Sept. 20 press conference.

Rochester Hills Fire Chief Sean Canto said the Fire Department will use the federal grant to hire eight full-time-equivalent firefighters during a Sept. 20 press conference.

Photo provided by the city of Rochester Hills


Federal grant to add 8 firefighters in Rochester Hills

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 2, 2019

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ROCHESTER HILLS — The Rochester Hills Fire Department was recently awarded a nearly $1.6 million federal grant to hire eight full-time-equivalent firefighters.

On Sept. 20, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett announced that the city’s Fire Department has received the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response — or SAFER — grant, which will be paid out to the city over three years.

Barnett said the almost $1.58 million grant will be used to hire eight additional firefighters, improving the level of public safety for the city’s nearly 75,000 residents.

“This year, this department will respond to probably over 7,200 calls for service, a record amount. Each year, we respond to more calls for service as our residents age and our community becomes even busier and more crowded. In order to maintain the high level of service for which the Fire Department is known, the leadership of the Fire Department worked very hard to find other alternative funding sources to improve service delivery.”

FEMA’s SAFER grant will pay for 75% of the salary and benefits for each of the eight full-time-equivalent firefighters in the first and second years of the grant, and 35% of the salary and benefits for the third year. The new firefighters must be hired no later than March 10, 2020, but Rochester Hills Fire Chief Sean Canto said the department sees this occurring “much sooner.”

“This funding will allow the Rochester Hills Fire Department to increase our staffing levels, so we can provide the highest level of services to the citizens and visitors of this great city,” he said.

Paul Wright, the president of the Rochester Hills Professional Firefighters, International Association of Firefighters Local 3472, said the SAFER grant “could not have come at a better time.”

“This SAFER grant will allow more boots on the ground and will allow us to provide a better service for our ever-growing call volume and calls for service,” Wright said.

Men and women in various levels of government — including U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and state Rep. Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills — helped the city secure the grant, according to Barnett.

“Anytime you celebrate a grant like this, it’s not without tremendous strategic partners,” he said. “This funding will allow us to be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Rochester Hills Fire Department has worked hard over the years to become what Barnett called “one of the best in the state.”

Last year, he said, the Fire Department went under “some intensive scrutiny” for its Insurance Services Office Public Protection Classification rating and was able to improve it from a 4 to a 2, becoming one of only eight departments in the state of Michigan rated at 2.

“They’re driven to be the best, so they weren’t just satisfied with the success of last year. And this year, (they) continued to map out a plan to provide a higher level of service and funding sources to support those levels of service,” Barnett said, speaking of the department’s new 2019-2029 strategic plan, which was unanimously approved by the Rochester Hills City Council earlier this year.

The Rochester Hills Fire Department — which currently operates five fire stations throughout the city — operates off of a dedicated fire millage, which Canto said is currently set at 2.7 mills. He said the 2020 budget for the Fire Department is approximately $12 million.

The department currently has 47 full-time personnel and 17 part-time personnel, and Canto said all members are dual certified as firefighters/EMTs or as firefighters/medics.

For more information, visit www.rochesterhills.org or call (248) 656-4720.

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