Clark County to hire 4 new firefighters

Two-year, $620,000 FEMA grant will help with staffing issues

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Clark County Fire & Rescue will be able to hire four firefighters thanks to a Federal Emergency Management Grant.

The $620,000 grant will cover the firefighters' pay and benefits for two years. The money will come as a significant financial boost for the district, which has struggled with money for the past three years, Chief Dennis Mason said.

"We've been understaffed for years," he said. "This is huge for us."

That started in 2009, when the district laid off 17 part-time firefighters and two full-time staff positions ahead of losing $988,000 from its budget, Mason said. Since then, the district has staffed two of its six fire stations with volunteers.

Currently, the district is staffed by 46 paid firefighters and 50 volunteers. The new hires will begin work on Jan. 1.

While the positions are slated to be temporary, Mason said they could be kept on longer than two years if the district can shore up extra money.

The district has had luck in recent years obtaining FEMA grants. The last one was in 2012, used to replace all of the district's hoses and nozzles. Other recent grants include one that was used to replace the district's aging radios and mobile data computers. The district also received a port security grant to replace an outdated rescue boat.

Mason said the new hires should help the district improve response times and boost the current firefighter force.