Higgins Area Fire District’s Station 23 reopens, thanks to nearly $1M grant | TheUnion.com

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Higgins Area Fire District’s Station 23 reopens, thanks to nearly $1M grant

The Higgins Area Fire District's Station 23, on McCourtney Road, reopened at 8 a.m. Friday with the help of nearly $1 million in grant funding.

After being "browned out" since 2012, the station will no longer close down every other month. Station 23 now has six full-time staffers operating on a year round basis for the next two years.

As a result, nearby residents could experience drastically improved response times on fire and medical calls. Battalion Chief Jerry Good says that during the brownouts, response times essentially doubled.

"For medical aid, it's significant," Good says. "We say that seconds count. It's key to get someone there in the first 10 minutes. If we're talking about 12-, 14-, or 16-minute response times — that hurts."

Reduced response times may also allow firefighters to contain some wildfires before they burn out of control.

Station 23's reopening is good news for the neighborhood, but it's also going to impact the firefighters who work there and their families.

Good says that when the station went to brownout mode in 2012, six firefighters were laid off.

As of Friday morning, all six have full-time employment once again — and they've been reinstated at their former rank so as not to lose seniority.

"Why go out and get new people when we have all these trained people, ready to go?" Good asked.

"They're experienced, they know the area and they're familiar with the equipment

"And it was the right thing to do," he added.

All this was made possible due to a $966,000 SAFER grant (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

But Good calls this solution a "band-aid."

The SAFER grant funds will be applied toward staffing costs for the next two years, but the issue will have to be revisited after that.

To contact staff writer Dave Brooksher, call 530-477-4230 or email dbrooksher@theunion.com.