(HELENA) The Helena Fire Department will receive more than $800,000 in federal money to help pay for six new firefighters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced on Friday that Helena had been awarded a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant.
Helena Fire Chief Mark Emert said the money will cover part of the new firefighters’ salaries for three years – starting at 75 percent in the first year and reducing to 25 percent by the third.
HFD was already planning to hire the six additional firefighters, regardless of whether the agency received the grant. Helena voters approved a property tax levy in June that will raise about $900,000 for increased fire department staffing and equipment purchases.
Emert said, because of the grant, he expects city leaders will not have to impose the entire authorized amount of the levy the first three years.
“What it allows us to do is phase in the levy, so it’s not so hard on the taxpayer,” he said.
Once HFD hires its new firefighters, the department will be able to increase the number of responders on duty at any given time from seven to nine. Leaders say that will help them respond more quickly when multiple emergency calls come in ant the same time.
Emert said the department will be interviewing candidates for the new positions this week.
“There’s a lot of good things happening,” he said.