STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
MARBLE FALLS — A Department of Homeland Security grant will enable Marble Falls Fire Rescue to add three firefighters to the department, putting an additional crew member on each shift.
The DHS Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant amount of $553,968 includes $341,614 in federal funds. The city matched $212,354. The grant funds 75 percent of the three firefighters’ salaries and benefits in years one and two then 35 percent in year three. The city is responsible for the cost thereafter.
Marble Falls Fire Rescue Chief Russell Sander said the additional firefighters will help the department meet national standards and reduce the reliance on mutual aid responses within the city.
The department currently has four firefighters per shift. The grant increases that to five per shift and a total of 18 fire department personnel.
“This puts a second unit out that can respond to calls,” Sander said. “We’ve gone from one unit responding to calls to two units.”
Sander said that, instead of having a fire engine respond to medical calls, the second unit can instead respond in a fire department SUV.
“A smaller vehicle is much more economical to operate,” he said.
To receive the grant, the department had to show that, on its own, it couldn’t meet National Fire Protection Association staffing standards.
“Historically, we haven’t been able to meet that standard. One of the priorities of the grant was to help departments meet the NFPA 1710 standard,” Sander said.
That standard calls for 15 fire department members to respond to a single-family dwelling fire. Marble Falls Fire Rescue relies on mutual aide from the Marble Falls Area Volunteer Fire Department, the Horseshoe Bay Fire Department, and the Granite Shoals Fire Department.
The extra personnel, Sander said, also will help as the city grows to the south.
A potential second fire station south of Marble Falls will require additional staff in five to 10 years when built.
“We’re spreading out the hiring of staff for a second station over years instead of in one budget cycle,” Sander said.
Until that happens, the extra staff will reduce overlapping call volumes on units and the reliance on mutual aide responses to medical calls.
Sander said the hiring process should begin in October after Marble Falls City Council approved accepting the grant during its Sept. 18 regular meeting. The target start date for the new firefighters is January 2019.