The Tulsa Fire Department is getting $12 million to hire 60 new firefighters.
Fire Chief Micael Baker says the funding comes at the perfect time because the department is short dozens of firefighters after a number of retirements. Those retirements, paired with the challenges of hiring during the peak of the pandemic, had Tulsa Chief Baker worried.
“We were a little concerned that we weren’t going to be able to fill the classes without a significant budget impact for the city," he said.
Not having enough new firefighters going through training means the ones you do have, need to work overtime, which costs the city extra. That's why Chief Baker applied for the SAFER grant last spring.
"It’s designed to assist communities with the staffing of firefighters," Baker said. “This morning in fact we received word that we had been awarded that grant.”
The $12 million grant from FEMA will allow the department to fill the shortage with 60 new firefighters, without cutting into the city's budget.
"What this does is allow us to catch up," he said.
The funding will be spread out over the next three years. It'll go towards things like firefighters' salaries, and benefits. The grant is great news too for potential recruits. Chief Baker says the dozens of openings - and money to pay for new hires gets the department a long way - but he needs people to apply and fill those empty boots.