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updated: 8/16/2012 4:35 PM

Hoffman Estates chosen for fire grant

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The Hoffman Estates fire department will have an opportunity to hire new firefighters for the first time in more than four years thanks to a federal grant.

Fire chief Robert Gorvett said while he still needs to meet with the village manager to discuss details before accepting the money, he is very excited that the department was offered a $581,565 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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The grant -- which is funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program -- is awarded to help fire departments nationwide with hiring initiatives aimed at increasing the number of front-line firefighters.

"We would certainly like to work toward raising our staffing level up and obviously if we're going to be able to do this with federal money it's a big boost for the village," Gorvett said.

Since 2008, the number of Hoffman Estates firefighters has decreased from 106 to 93, Gorvett said. There were never any layoffs, but as people retired they weren't replaced.

He added that the number of civilian employees has been reduced from seven in 2008 to two now, but that they were not considered in the grant application.

If the grant is accepted the plan would be to hire three new firefighters for a two-year period, Gorvett said. However, it is likely that at least three current employees will retire within in those years, meaning the department could hopefully keep the new hires permanently once the grant money runs out.

"We would plan to retain them," Gorvett said.

The use of the grant money is limited to the cost of salaries and benefits for the new employees. Assuming they had no prior experience, the department would have to pay to put the new hires through the fire academy, emergency medical technician school and paramedic school. That, along with the cost of protective clothing, would cost about $15,000 per employee, Gorvett said.

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