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Arlington, Texas News

The City of Arlington Announces $16.6 Million Federal Grant to Support Fire Department Staffing Transition

The City of Arlington is proud to announce the acquisition of a $16.6 million federal grant that will play a pivotal role in facilitating the Fire Department's phased transition to four-person staffing. This transformation is a critical step in enhancing fire prevention, emergency response, and community health outreach capabilities within the city.

Arlington's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, the third largest among 177 awarded nationally this year by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, will span over three years, covering the salary and benefits of numerous additional firefighters from February 2024 to February 2027.

In September, the Arlington City Council sanctioned a phased plan to elevate the Fire Department's staffing levels from three-person to four-person staffing on all fire engine and ladder truck calls, aligning with the national safety practice standard observed in other major cities. With the current roster of 403 firefighters, the Fire Department aims to introduce 81 new firefighter positions in the upcoming two fiscal years.

To initiate this transition, the City Council has allocated $8 million in the FY 2024 operating budget to accommodate 40 additional firefighter positions and necessary equipment, with funding earmarked for an additional 41 positions and equipment in subsequent fiscal year budgets. The newly secured federal grant will shoulder the costs of 63 of these planned positions over a three-year period, allowing the city to allocate resources to other municipal priorities during this timeframe.

The SAFER Grant Program, having dispensed a total of $360 million this year, empowers fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in bolstering their ranks, thereby ensuring communities are well-prepared to tackle fire-related challenges and address evolving technological and security concerns.

This grant funding will significantly complement the Fire Department's 2025 Strategic Plan, helping Arlington prepare for the future while simultaneously responding to the increased demand from the public for a broad range of response services.

Fire Chief Bret Stidham expressed his enthusiasm, saying, "This grant will allow us to be more efficient with our resources as we serve the citizens of Arlington. FEMA certainly sees what we see. The City of Arlington is growing rapidly and is expanding upward. Having four-person staffing will help us look at our current response models to improve response capacity and reduce response times. This is really big for us."

The transition to four-person staffing promises several crucial advantages:

  1. Complying with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 1710) standards, enabling a quicker response to structure fires with fewer vehicles and more units available for additional emergency calls.

  2. Improved efficiency in completing fire ground tasks, including evacuations, citizen rescues, applying water to fires, and ventilating smoke, all contributing to a reduction in property and life loss.

  3. Enhanced safety for firefighters entering burning structures, with the capability to assign a four-person Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC) earlier in the event. The RIC's primary role is to rescue firefighters in trouble.

  4. Better equipped to respond to calls in Arlington's growing number of multi-story buildings, aligning with NFPA's best practice for fires in high-rise buildings.

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