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Published: Friday, 11/29/2013

Detroit gets $24M grant to hire 150 firefighters


DETROIT  — A $24 million federal grant will allow Detroit to hire 150 firefighters, Michigan’s U.S. senators announced.

The grant comes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program, which is designed to ensure that fire departments across the country have enough personnel to protect their communities.

The award is an annual one, but it is believed the hires would be supported by the grant for more than one year, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

Executive Fire Commissioner Don Austin called the federal money a “godsend.” He said the department has 781 firefighters, down hundreds due to retirements.

“The average age of our firefighters is 45, so we need some new blood, and this is really going to support that effort,” Austin said.

The city has about 11,000 to 12,000 fires annually with 60 percent in blighted or unoccupied buildings.

O’Dell Tate has volunteered for Detroit’s Angels’ Night patrols for more than 10 years and has watched as firefighters battle blazes that strain resources and put neighborhoods on edge.

He said the grant “couldn’t come at a better time.”

“We have wonderful firefighters here, but for a city Detroit’s size, to increase our numbers would be a great asset,” Tate told The Detroit News.

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