Richmond Fire Dept. awarded over $13M to support 72 new positions

The funds comes from FEMA’s SAFER grant.
The department was able to secure more than 13 million dollars from FEMA's SAFER grant to fund 72 new positions for their team.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2022 at 6:49 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Richmond Fire Department will be receiving a big boost in funding from FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant to help them fund 72 new positions for their team.

Outside Fire Station 14 on Friday morning, Richmond Fire Chief Melvin Carter discussed the details of the $13,728,600 grant and how it will be used to support staffing.

“These positions will be used to create four 18-person fire companies, including one engine company. That’s the smaller engines that carry water and fire hose and three truck companies,” said Chief Carter. “These are the units you see that are typically longer and has a large ladder on the top of it.”

Richmond Fire said they submitted their application for the grant in February; a process fire officials describe as highly competitive with only $560 million in available funding for the entire country. In addition, Richmond Fire explained FEMA received 1,585 applications, totaling over $2.5 billion in requests for this grant cycle.

On Sept. 21, Richmond Fire found out they received over $13 million worth of grant funding to help them fund those new positions within the department.

Since 1970, Chief Carter said 13 Richmond Fire companies have been disbanded, which has brought challenges as call volumes go up by more than 700 percent.

“This effort goes a long way to bring us back to a position that we support the current future growth of the City of Richmond,” said Chief Carter. “The city has the fiduciary responsibility of making sure we have the capacity and resources to meet the needs of our citizens.”

This money also comes as Richmond Fire looks to fill its vacancies.

During the press conference, Chief Carter said the department faces 48 vacancies. He adds this number will go down by more than a half after the next class of fire recruits graduate from the academy on Oct. 20.

“That still leaves a balance of roughly 20 other firefighter vacancies that need to be filled,” he said. “These 72 positions will be part of the ongoing recruitment process.”

To help fill vacancies, Richmond Fire also shortened its hiring process to help them attract more candidates and cast a wider net in its applicant pool.

In addition, the starting salary for firefighters also went up as part of a budget passed by the Richmond City Council. Under this plan, a fire recruit’s salary went up from $43,000 to $49,900. Once a recruit graduates from the academy, their salary will go up roughly $2,000 to a total amount of $51,913.

Through these new positions, Chief Carter hopes to address their response times.

“Right now, we have four truck companies. Two north, two south and, on some occasions, we can wait up to 20 minutes for a truck to get to the place it was dispatched to, and that’s truly unacceptable,” said Chief Carter. “This effort goes a long way primarily to make sure our people are safe while executing the mission our citizens expect us to do.”

Chief Carter also hopes to boost the resources needed for their staff members.

“Our own personnel will not have to wait longer times to have the help and support they need on scene,” he said.

In addition, Chief Carter also talked about how this could have improved their members’ mental health and well-being.

“Although mandatory overtime is not going away, we will rely less on the use of mandatory overtime, thus putting less strain on the day-to-day requirements of our members,” he said.

To help with the recruitment process, Richmond Fire is holding the following open house events for prospective fire recruits:

  • Saturday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Fire Station 17(2211 Semmes Ave.)
  • Thursday, Sept. 29, from 5-7 p.m. at Fire Station 1 (308 North 24th Street)

To learn more about Richmond Fire and how to apply for a fire recruit position, click here.