All 44 were rehired this past November, thanks to Recovery Act awards that also provided the department with an overtime budget.
"This was tremendous for us," says Fall River fire chief Paul Ford. "It represents a 25 percent increase in manpower."
The Fall River fire department received two Recovery Act awards. The first one, for $2.8 million, was used to rehire the laid off fire fighters. The second one, for $182K, will enable the department to cover overtime costs.
What does it mean to the Fall River fire department to have a full staff again? "It means a lot if your house is on fire," says Ford. "Over the last eight months we had instances where we incurred higher levels of property loss because there were not enough people at the scene."
Ford points out that the city was fortunate that none of the fires experienced in that time period led to serious injuries or loss of life. "It would be like not making your life insurance payments for a year," he says. "When you start making the payments again you're relieved that nothing happened but that doesn't mean it was good."
After the layoffs, the department was not able to meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. "We couldn't have 15 men on the scene in eight minutes," says Ford.
Additionally, the ability that the second award gives the department to cover overtime costs is also important. "My overtime budget was depleted," says Ford. "If someone would be sick or couldn't come to work, I couldn't call anyone to take their place. With the money infused into the overtime budget, I don't have to shut down an engine."