Pa. department to hire 5 new firefighters with help of grant
A $360,612 SAFER grant will pay for three of the positions as officials replace retirees
By Sam Galski
HAZLETON, Pa. — Five new career firefighters will join the city’s department in the next few weeks as officials replace retirees and use a grant to fill two new positions, according to the city’s fire chief.
The Civil Service Commission voted earlier this week to present the name of seven firefighter applicants who scored highest on Civil Service testing to Mayor Jeff Cusat.
Cusat will select five candidates from the list to fill a position that opened when a full-time firefighter retired earlier this year, two other positions that will be vacated due to pending retirements, and two new career firefighter positions.
A $360,612 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program will pay for three of the positions.
The new personnel should create safer conditions for the public and emergency responders, as the number of full-time firefighters will increase from 20 to 23, fire Chief Donald Leshko said Friday. The city must keep a minimum of 23 full-time firefighters to comply with the grant, which will pay salaries and benefits for the new positions over a three-year period, Leshko said.
After three years, the city will evaluate its financial position and determine whether it can afford to keep the three grant-funded positions on staff, he said.
“At the end of those three years, we’ll evaluate and see where we go,” Leshko said.
The applicants are “very well qualified,” with many already possessing all or most of the certifications that city firefighters must secure within three years of working for the city, the chief said.
“A lot of that training is done,” Leshko said. “It’s a plus on our side and … it will not cost the city a large sum of money in training these firefighters.”
Leshko said in September when the city secured the SAFER grant that the money ensures that shifts will be staffed by five firefighters. Shifts have been staffed by two five-man platoons and two four-man platoons.
The starting salary for new firefighters hired as of Jan. 1, 2019, is $45,684, according to the contract the city has with International Association of Firefighters, Local 507.
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