Council approves $4 million FEMA grant towards Suffolk Fire and Rescue

Published 11:29 am Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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During their consent agenda hearing held at their Wednesday, Feb. 7, City Council meeting, council members approved an ordinance to accept $4,115,448 from the United States Department of Homeland Security for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program to hire 18 additional firefighters. FEMA’s funding is part of a total of $216 million awarded to 133 Fire Departments nationwide to help increase firefighter staffing, meet the industry’s minimum standards and provide 24 hour staffing to provide proper fire protection. City Manager Albert Moor provided details, noting that the grant pays the first three year salaries of the 18 firefighters.

“Adoption of this ordinance will increase the revenues and expenditures of the consolidated grants fund budget by the $4,115,448. There is no local cash match,” Moor said during the meeting.

Fire Chief Michael J. Barakey says that the 18 new hires will support the upcoming Fire Station 11 in Harbourview, however, he notes that once they complete the recruit fire academy, the new firefighters will be distributed throughout the city as they “cannot place all 18 new firefighters at the same station.”

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“We always place experienced firefighters and officers at different fire stations to ensure we distribute the experience and recruit graduates in an appropriate manner,” Barakey said.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue also saw two more consent agenda approvals. The department saw council pass an ordinance to accept a $21,781 grant from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to use towards emergency management salary match. The adoption will increase the revenues and expenditures of the Consolidated Grants Fund by $21,781 with a local cash match of $21,781 that is available in the Department of Fire and Rescue’s Fiscal Year 2023-2024 operating budget. 

Likewise, Council passed a resolution to accept a Medical Response Access Transport (MRAT) unit from the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) to help support the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Medical Response System (HRMMRS) and SFR with medical incidents. Valued at $73,000, the MRAT is a MedStat 500 Off Road ambulance and the resolution will increase the fleet expenditures in SFR’s budget by $800 annual fuel and maintenance costs.