The Youngstown Fire Department could be putting out a 911 call of their own after a firefighter resigned in July.  

That one resignation has put the department under the required staffing level of 127 people needed to man the department, according to the requirements of the federal SAFER grant.  

So could that put the city of Youngstown in jeopardy of defaulting on a nearly half a million dollar commitment?

Lieutenant Tony Ciccone, The President of the International Association of Firefighters Local 312, the union that represents the firefighters, said, if the city is forced to pay back the federal money because it defaulted, it would most likely force layoffs.

"We want to keep our staffing numbers up so that we can man all the trucks in the city and closing fire stations is unsafe," Lt. Ciccone said.

The union says even being one person short puts them in default of the three-year, $400,000 federal grant.

According to firefighters, if the city defaults on the SAFER grant they'd have to pay back the portion that's unused along with a penalty, and they'd no longer be in the driver's seat when it comes to the number of firefighters on the job.  That's because they'd likely be forced into layoffs and keeping fire stations shut down.

"That would be devastating to the citizens because we would not be able to provide the service and protection we have been.  Because when you close a fire station that district on the map where the fire station is close to is in increased danger because of the amount of time that it takes a different station to get there, and seconds matter in fires they really do.  A fire doubles in size every 30 seconds.  It's a long time when it's an emergency," Lt. Ciccone tells 21 News.

According to Lt. Ciccone, if the city defaults on the grant and has to pay it back, the city of Youngstown and the Youngstown Fire Department will be penalized in other ways.

 "We're also moving forward with working with EMS, starting Emergency Medical Services.  We're going to need to have federal grants to help fund that.  And if we default on this grant it's going to be a period of time, maybe three to five years until we can receive another federal grant," Ciccone said.

Fire Chief Barry Finley said he understands the union's concerns as he waits to see if he can hire someone. 

"At first, the mayor gave me the okay.  Then he didn't say we couldn't hire. He just said let's hold off for a minute so I can look at a few things, and that's his job," Chief Finley said.

But the fire chief said the grant allows 60 more days before a decision has to be made, and it does have a "hardship" provision if the city decides not to hire.

Chief Finley said, "If, and I'm saying "if", they would decide to go that route they would have to prove to the SAFER grant people that the city is in a hardship, and if that's the case then they wouldn't have to pay anything back."

Mayor Tito Brown was unavailable for comment.