New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes
New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes has faced some tricky situations in his career as a firefighter. But turning down a $12.2 million grant was not something he wanted to experience - and thanks to stimulus funds, he didn't have to.

Recovery Act Impact: New Bedford Fire Department

  • Total stimulus funding: $2.6 million

  • Training grant to Dept. of Fire Services: $380K

  • Provided recruit training to 44 firefighters

  • Enabled New Bedford Fire Dept to qualify for $12.2M SAFER grant

Under its first grant from the stimulus program, the New Bedford Fire Department was able to hire 33 firefighters, personnel that were crucial to the city's department, struggling to maintain its ranks through the economic downturn. As that grant wound down, the fire department was eligible to receive a $12.2 million Staffing For Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant which would enable it to retain those 33 firefighters and hire an additional 34.

Firefighters at the MA Firefighting Training Academy
The only problem was that the SAFER grant required its recipients to train the recruits it hired within 90 days. According to Gomes, his department didn't have the resources to train the recruits. "It was impossible for us to do ourselves," he said.

A stimulus grant of $380K provided to the Department of Fire Services enabled those 34 recruits, plus an additional 10 recruits, to get the training they need to be certified at Firefighter level one and two. "We're very thankful," said Gomes. "This would have been very problematic without the stimulus grant."

Edmund Walker, director of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, agrees. "They wouldn't have been able to accept the grant without this stimulus funded

Fire Chief Michael Gomes

For New Bedford, that would have been a disastrous situation. As Gomes explained, the SAFER grants target urban communities which deal with increased fire problems because of the conditions of its housing stock and more difficult urban conditions. Gomes said his firefighting force was down to 187 from a high of 236 and the grant was bringing it back up to stable levels.

"This stimulus money is money well spent," he said.