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Anne Arundel gets $8.5 million from FEMA to hire up to 70 new firefighters

On Jan. 17, the Anne Arundel County Fire Department Recruit Class 51 graduated in the Kaufman Auditorium at Anne Arundel Community College. Seventeen graduates completed 18 weeks of training, with the remaining 24 recruits successfully completing a total of 24 weeks. All 41 graduates will be released to the field immediately to begin their new assignments.
On Jan. 17, the Anne Arundel County Fire Department Recruit Class 51 graduated in the Kaufman Auditorium at Anne Arundel Community College. Seventeen graduates completed 18 weeks of training, with the remaining 24 recruits successfully completing a total of 24 weeks. All 41 graduates will be released to the field immediately to begin their new assignments. (Courtesy photo, Capital Gazette)

Anne Arundel County has accepted an $8.5 million grant to help for 70 additional new firefighters, County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Wednesday.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant funds the new positions for three years, and the costs fall to the county when that period ends.

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It was previously offered to Anne Arundel County but was cut in 2016 under former County Executive Steve Schuh, because of concerns about how the firefighters would be paid after the term of the grant ran out.

Pittman said the grant is a great opportunity to make the county safer.

“Public safety is the most important obligation we have,” Pittman said. “I’m pleased that we are moving forward to fill critical vacancies and expand our firefighter force to provide better coverage for our communities.”

Anne Arundel County’s budget for 2020 already accounts for the hire of 50 new firefighters, and if all the new positions can be filled by the end of the fiscal year, the Pittman administration said it will move to add 20 additional firefighter positions.

The department currently serves Anne Arundel County’s population of almost 600,000 with over 900 career firefighters, according to its website, and at least 450 volunteer firefighters.

Fire Chief Trisha Wolford said that by increasing staffing, the grant will help the department better serve the whole community.

The SAFER grant is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration and is awarded yearly in varying amounts to fire departments across the country to help communities boost the number of trained firefighters on the front lines, according to the FEMA website.

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