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Suffolk Fire Department gets $3.4 million for pay for new firefighters

Suffolk Fire & Rescue will receive $3.41 million over the next three years from a federal program that will allow it to hire 18 new firefighters.

The department is getting the money through the Department of Homeland Security’s Fiscal Year 2020 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program and is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

About 300 fire departments across the United States received $355 million to help increase the number of firefighters to help them meet industry minimum standards and to reach 24-hour staffing.

“Suffolk Fire & Rescue is excited to receive the SAFER grant award,” Barakey said. “Funding from the grant will allow Suffolk Fire & Rescue to provide the citizens of Suffolk with even further reduced response times and a more effective emergency response.”

The new firefighters hired through the grant will come on board later this year and will supplement the needed 36 firefighters for the opening of the new Fire Station 11 off of College Drive in the Harbour View area of North Suffolk.

The new firefighters are part of a group of 44 recruits who will begin training at the Hampton Roads Recruit Fire Academy Oct. 7.

Barakey said the money will pay for the new firefighters’ salaries and benefits.

He said the new fire station is in the design phase, and ground should be broken for the new station in the winter or spring of 2022.

The new station, he said, is much-needed given the busy North Suffolk area that can slow down response times from Fire Station 5 off of Bridge Road. It was funded at $1.7 million in fiscal year 2020 and $3.8 million in fiscal 2021. It will receive another $1.9 million in fiscal 2022, with the money coming out of the capital projects fund.

“When that fire station is two-and-a-half, three miles away at the most from their neighborhood and it still takes seven-and-a-half minutes to get there because of traffic,” Barakey said, “we’re putting a fire station literally where we need it the most. There are so many calls for service over there in North Suffolk.”