After almost two years of reduced staffing and station closings due to budget cuts, the Higgins Fire District has been awarded a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The grant will allow the district to hire six firefighters, which will provide full-time staffing for one additional station. The firefighters, many of whom were laid off as a result of the budget cuts in 2012, have been rehired, providing the department with well trained and knowledgeable employees who are already familiar with their community.
On Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon, the public is invited to join the Higgins Fire District as it hosts an open house at Station 23, 20604 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley, for the reopening of the once “browned out” station.
“The reduction in staffing has increased our response times to parts of the district,” said Battalion Chief Jerry Good, “This is unacceptable because every second counts when responding to emergencies.” The grant totals $966,000 and is only to be used to maintain personnel for adequate staffing for a total of two years.
While the grant will be an important benefit to the residents and business owners in the Higgins Fire District, it is not a permanent funding source. It will provide the fire district’s board of directors with additional time to develop options for consistent funding.
The two previous attempts to pass new funding measures failed, including Measure O, which fell short by less than 30 votes.
Like many other small fire departments struggling in this economy over the past few years, the Higgins Fire District’s budget was reduced by up to 32 percent, yet the demand for service has increased. The current fire department parcel fee of $25 per year was established in 1980 and remains unchanged. While the district has been very prudent with spending, the 34-year-old assessment falls significantly short in providing adequate funding.
For more information on the Higgins Fire Department, go to http://higginsfire.org/