Story and Photos by Steve Fiorentine.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced at a press conference Saturday that the Long Beach Fire Department received a federal grant to rehire five firefighters who were laid off due to city budget cuts earlier this year
The LBFD will receive $910,530 from the Department of Homeland Security’s SAFER Program that will pay the salaries of the rehired firefighters for two years. After that time the city can apply to renew the grant.
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“We all know, more than probably any other place, the Long Beach Fire Department and the city of Long Beach and the community of Long Beach are totally intertwined,” Schumer said at the press conference, held at LBFD headquarters at City Hall.
“Being laid off for the last five months was very tough,” said Brian Olson, one of the rehired firefighters. “All five of us put a lot of hard work in to getting hired here. It’s not an easy thing to come by so seeing the fruits of all the work that we’ve put in to get that job back, it’s a great feeling.”
Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) was a program formed
as part of the Safer Act, a law that Schumer co-authored. Its stated purpose is to give funding to fire departments to increase the number of firefighters, as well as to rehire those who were laid off due to a municipality’s economic troubles.
“It’s a lot of relief,” rehired firefighter Bryan Jones said. “I’m very happy to have my job back. It’s a lot of weight off of my shoulders and a lot of stress relieved. It just feels good to be back.”
Schumer also thanked Long Beach’s first responders for their efforts during and after Hurricane Sandy. The senator assured the people in attendance that shoreline communities such as Long Beach would be rebuilt rather than abandoned.
“We owe all these firefighters a debt of gratitude,” Schumer said. “In time of increased need of emergency service and emergency medical response, it’s critical to increase the core first responders available to Long Beach’s residents.”
City Manager Jack Schnirman called the grant a sign of recovery, both financially and physically.
“It’s a real shot in the arm to get these guys back,” he said. “Our public safety needs have obviously risen following the storm, particularly at a time when we don’t have a working hospital in the city. We need even more folks driving those ambulances and these guys couldn’t come at a better time."Be a Follower. Explore and subscribe to Patch groups.
The city originally applied for the grant prior to the storm, but pushed harder for it after Sandy, Schnirman said. With Schumer’s help, the grant was approved.
“It’s like getting my life back in order, getting back on track and restarting my career,” said Chris Koehle, a rehired firefighter. “It’s nice to get back to kind of a normalcy.”
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