SAFER Grant Helps Save Jobs of N.J. Firefighters

The City of Trenton was awarded a SAFER grant this week that will save the jobs of 61 firefighters set to be laid off, according to The Courier-Post.

The close to $13.7 million in federal funds will be used to rehire the firefighters who received layoff notices on Dec. 17 as the city waited to hear back about the grant. The layoffs were set to be executed by Jan. 5, but the recipients were given a one-month reprieve before the first of the year.

Trenton Special Operations Chief John Gribben Jr. told the newspaper that the department has lost a third of its staff since 2002 due to budget cuts, and that the layoffs would have meant losing another third.

"It would have meant we would have to fight one fire at a time in this town," he said.

The department was already more than two dozen firefighters short and Gribben said it hasn't been easy for his staff.

"I have to give the firefighters credit," he said. "They haven't skipped a beat and continue to come to work with no spike in sick leave. They've continued to do their jobs in spite of what they've faced."

Trenton was one of nine fire departments that received SAFER grants as part of the fourth round of the FY2010 awards. Its award was by far the largest for this cycle as the next-largest was awarded to the Lawrence, Mass. Fire Department in the amount of $6.6 million.

Camden, N.J. -- which sits less than 50 miles north of Trenton -- is waiting to see if it will be chosen to receive a similar grant.

Earlier this week, the city was forced to lay off 67 firefighters to help close a multimillion budget gap.

The Camden Fire Department applied to be part of the SAFER program the day before Trenton did, but it is still awaiting word from FEMA on the fate of its application, according to The Courier-Post.