U.S. Senator and Scranton native Bob Casey Junior announced Thursday that the city of Scranton has been approved to receive a grant worth more than $8 million.
This comes after the city budget forced the closing of three firehouses and the layoffs of 29 firefighters this past year.
Engine 10 on East Mountain in the city was one of the firehouses shut down last year. It has since been reopened, but the fire department had fewer firefighters than it had in decades. Now, because of this grant, those 29 laid off firefighters will all be back on the force.
“It’s just so basic and essential to have the ability to fight fires,” said Senator Casey.
He made the big announcement that the city of Scranton will receive an $8 million federal grant to go toward the city’s fire protection, funding, Scranton fire officials said will likely save the department and will put the public at ease after many city residents protested the lay offs of 29 firefighters last year.
“I think we probably got the biggest of the grants, and we are so grateful. This is such a relief. We never expected to get this much money,” said Fire Chief Tom Davis.
The $8 million will get 29 firefighters, who were laid off last year, back on the job. The layoffs, though necessary, were crippling according to fire officials. The department had its lowest number of firefighters in decades.
“We can actually have other companies staged, companies prepared for another emergency while were at another emergency. When we were down to 100 we didn’t have that luxury a lot of times,” said Fire Captain Robert Cetta.
The lack of that luxury became apparent earlier this year when Scranton was hit with a rash of devastating fires. City leaders brought back 12 firefighters in march.
“To be able to pay for the 12 firefighters that we brought back, but also bring back an additional 17 firefighters, it’s a great help to the city and were very appreciative, but it also speaks to the same problem other city’s are having throughout the country,” said Mayor Chris Doherty.
He added the grant will pay for the additional firefighters for about two years. So, the grant only buys the city time. The laid off firefighters will get back to work within the next few days.
“They do really hard jobs, and then they get laid off, what are they supposed to do? Now they have their jobs back. That’s awesome!” said Christian McShane.
Fire officials will also decided in the next few weeks if the grant money will help reopen some of the closed firehouses, but Chief Davis said he hopes to have all the city’s firehouses operational again.