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$3.5 million grant will allow Lynn to hire 20 new firefighters

The Pine Hill fire station in Lynn. (Spenser Hasak)

LYNN — The Lynn Fire Department has been awarded a $3.45 million federal grant, which will allow the city to hire 20 new firefighters.

The Lynn Fire Department was one of four departments statewide to be awarded the Staffing for Adequate & Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The SAFER program helps organizations maintain or increase the number of trained front line firefighters available in their communities.

“This grant allows us to hire vitally needed firefighters to get us closer to where we need to be to adequately protect the community,” said Lynn Fire Chief Stephen Archer in a statement.

“We’ve seen reductions in our numbers in recent years due to attrition and a hiring freeze that have left us down 25 firefighters from where we were just five years ago. The new hires will mean an immediate improvement in the level of service, a reduction in the department’s overtime spending, and an added benefit of improved morale within the department itself.”

According to Lynn Fire Capt. Joseph Zukas, the hires made under the 3-year grant need to be made by Jan. 31 and will bring the department’s staffing level to 183 firefighters, which is closer to the department’s optimal staffing goal of 190.

With the grant, Zukas said that staffing level of 183 firefighters has to be maintained over the three-year period. If there’s a retirement, the position has to be filled.

SAFER is a matching grant. The city has to pay 25 percent of the salaries for the 20 hires for the first two years and then 65 percent for the third year, Zukas said.

At the end of the three-year period, the city will pick up the entire cost of the salaries. Those employees cannot be terminated at the end of the 36-month period.

“Good news for the city as Lynn has been awarded this SAFER grant, which will add 20 additional firefighters to the Lynn department,” said Mayor Thomas M. McGee in a statement. “This grant will help us begin to build our force back up to the appropriate level to ensure public safety and protect our community.”

Zukas said bringing the department to a safer staffing level with the hires will help to defray overtime costs which was supplementing the missing firefighter positions.

According to the city budget, in FY18, overtime paid to the fire department cost the city $1.7 million. Zukas said new firefighters are hired at a salary of approximately $47,000.

“More great news for Lynn,” said U.S. Rep Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) in a statement. “While the city has been making impressive progress over the past few years, the cuts to firefighters and other first responders have been unacceptable.

“Mayor McGee and the city councilors made it clear to me that this grant, along with the recent $1 million federal police grant, was a top priority, and I am glad that FEMA listened and recognizes the importance of this investment.”

In addition to Lynn, the Revere Fire Department was awarded $681,503 in SAFER grant funding, which will allow for the hiring of four new firefighters. The Yarmouth and Freetown fire departments were also awarded funding, which will allow them to hire four and two new firefighters respectively.

“Massachusetts firefighters work every day to ensure the safety of cities and towns across the Commonwealth and I am grateful for their unyielding commitment to that mission,” said U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a statement. “This federal funding will help guarantee that first responders have the staffing and resources they need as they continue to keep our families and communities safe.”

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