Just before the start of summer next year, the Belmont Fire Department will return to a position it hadn’t been in since 2010: being fully staffed.
Thanks to a federal grant aimed at increasing the number of “front line” firefighters to meet national staffing and response standards, “[the BFD] will be budgeted for four shifts of 13 personnel for fiscal year 2016 and 2017,” said Belmont Fire Chief David Frizzell told the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Monday, Sept. 29.
“This is good news for the department,” said Fizzell, who came with BFD Assistant Chief Angus Davison who wrote the grant.
The $285,020 SAFER grant award to BFD from the Department of Homeland Security will allow the department to cover the salary and benefits of a pair of “fire suppression” personnel for two years, said Frizzell.
While budgeted for 50 employees, the department currently has 48 firefighters on staff after a recent retirement and the departure of another.
The additional staff comes just in time as the department prepares for a “significant turnover” among its ranks in the coming years, Frizzell told the selectmen. While he can’t specifically say how many personnel will be departing as they only need to provide two weeks notice before retiring or leaving, Frizzell said several department members will become eligible for retirement.
“Because there is a lag of sometimes four to six months between the time we have an opening and when [new employees] complete the hiring and training process, it will be important [the department has] these two new members staffed when we go through our staff reductions,” said Frizzell.