Feb. 22--WEST BARNSTABLE -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted $252,203 to the West Barnstable Fire Department to hire a deputy chief.
"This is the fifth year in a row we've applied for this grant," said Fire Chief Joe Maruca. "I'd given up on it honestly."
The grant, funded by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, will cover the compensation for a new deputy chief for the first two years; in the third year the cost must be covered by the fire district.
Maruca said by then he should be able to cut some other expenses to include the salary in the budget without much of an impact on taxpayers.
The West Barnstable department has five career firefighter-paramedics, a full-time chief, and 45 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians, Maruca said.
The village has about 4,000 residents, but on a single day, he said, up to 6,000 people can be at Cape Cod Community College, and during the summer thousands can sit at Sandy Neck Beach, both of which are in his department's coverage area.
In 2013, the department responded to 654 emergency calls, compared with only 431 in 2000.
But it's not the call volume that is driving the need for the deputy chief, Maruca said.
Five years ago, the department's strategic plan identified the need for more administrative help.
The complexity of recruiting, training and working around the personal schedules of the 45 volunteers is a taxing job, Maruca said.
The chief also writes 20 year-end reports, and many others throughout the year.
"I'm spending an enormous amount of time with paper," he said. "I sometimes say, 'I fight fire with paper.'"
The deputy chief can help with management duties. The position must be filled by the middle of May, according to the grant's requirements.
The grant, called the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant, was created "to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighters to help them increase or maintain the number of trained 'front-line' firefighters available in their communities," according to FEMA's website.
Copyright 2014 - Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.