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Oceanside to add 11 firefighters thanks to a $2.7M grant

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Fire Department is looking to add 11 firefighter paramedics to its ranks thanks to $2.7 million federal grant award. 

Oceanside fire was awarded the large sum through the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Staffing of Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant.

The goal of the grant is to ensure adequate fire and emergency response front line staffing.

Fire Chief Darryl Hebert said additional staffing would make a significant impact.

Five firefighter paramedics have been hired since the application was submitted.

Hiring six additional firefighter paramedics will enable two fire trucks to increase crews from three firefighter paramedics to four and increase personnel who are on 24-hour call from 33 to 35.

“FEMA recognized that we were understaffed,” Hebert said. “I’m excited City Council allowed us to accept the grant. We have not hired additional firefighters for several, several years. Our call volume went up.”

Additional personnel will help Oceanside fire meet the growing demands to respond to calls.

From January to July 2012, there were 7,155 calls for medical emergency services. The same six months in 2013, calls jumped to 7,843 emergencies, an increase of 9.62 percent.

The increase in medical emergency calls coupled with the requirement to have 14 to 15 personnel respond to a full alarm call has strained resources with the present number of firefighters paramedics on staff.

To put the demand for service in perspective a full alarm call is a low hazard two-story 2,000 square foot dwelling. Medium to high hazard calls require additional personnel to respond.

“Two extra people, 33 to 35, is huge as a chief,” Hebert said. “I sleep better at night.”

Additional personnel will help Oceanside fire meet response requirements quicker. Herbert added it should also improve response time.

“Hiring six firefighter paramedics will up staff our trucks to four persons per truck,” Hebert said. “It will make an incredible difference.”

Adding an additional firefighter paramedic to two trucks will also free up other personnel to respond to the increased number of medical emergency calls.

“It frees ambulances that have been super busy,” Hebert said. “It changes the whole work assignments of that truck.”

The grant will pay 100 percent of salary and benefits for the 11 new hires for two years. No matching city funds are required.

If a new hire is a post-9/11 veteran their salary and benefits will be paid for three years by the grant. Hebert said post-9/11 veterans would be sought in recruiting and hiring.

Hebert added attrition would allow most of the 11 new hires to continue working with the department beyond the two years the grant is active.

City Council approved accepting the grant funds in a 4-0 vote Sept. 4. Councilwoman Esther Sanchez abstained.

Grant funds are available immediately to Oceanside fire with City Council’s approval.

A job announcement for the six positions was posted on Sept. 10. The hiring process takes 60 days. Hiring is expected to be completed by next January.