Firefighters face layoffs as SAFER grant expires - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

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Firefighters face layoffs as SAFER grant expires

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WARREN, Ohio -

A grant that covers the paychecks for five firefighters is set to expire, forcing layoffs to take effect Tuesday.

The department's headcount will shrink to 55 firefighters despite efforts to obtain another round of federal SAFER grant money.

Mayor Doug Franklin says the city planned in advance in case it had to work with less.

"We've made sure that we got the best in terms of training and in terms of equipment," Franklin says. "When you know that something's going to happen, you're prepared for it."

New trucks and a smoke detector outreach program are just two of the measures Franklin says the department and the city is taking to help ease the pain from losing hands on deck.

The city budgeted this year for severance packages to cover the five that will be laid when the federal SAFER grant runs out.

But while new trucks will allow for fewer firefighters on board, the department's union president says that won't be a solution to their manpower problem.

"To send three guys on a truck and say that's going to help reduce manpower, it's not the case," John Jerina says, IAFF Local 204 president. "We still will have to send a couple trucks to alleviate any issues."

Jerina says the number of firefighters per shift could drop depending on vacation and time-off and some departments could close from time to time to keep resources together in one location.

He believes the city needs to be more aggressive in finding new funding. The union has suggested starting up EMS operations in the past, but that idea has yet to get any traction.

"Right now the EMS program, running with private EMS, they just can't handle to the call volume," Jerina says. "We believe as a fire department that we should be running EMS."

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