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SAFER Grant Would Remedy LFD Staffing Concerns

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A new high school. New sewer lines. With all the new additions, the Lewiston Orchards is experiencing a lot of growth. But that's causing some concerns at the Lewiston Fire Department.

Chief Travis Myklebust says in a situation where there's someone inside a burning home, two firefighters go in while two stay out.

Right now that's not possible since two of their three engine crews only have two people, including Engine 72 at Station 2 at 16th and Grelle.

Even if a fire is next door to Station 2, the next engine is at least 8 to ten minutes away. That's if one is available.

That leaves no one outside and help still several minutes away with water running out in about three minutes.

That's why the department is applying for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant.

This four year FEMA grant would allow them to hire additional firefighters for Engine 72.

"We would be adding three new firefighters, one per shift, that would go over to that engine company. So it's about a $300,000 for wages and benefits per year, and then of course the grant would be covering that in the one through three-year mark," Chief Myklebust says.

The grant application is due at the end of April and, if approved, the soonest the department could see new staff is October.

The first two years of the grant, the fire department would have to pay 25% of those wages and benefits, and 65% the third year. The department would be responsbile for 100% of the funding in the last year. Chief Myklebust says he's already identified a way to fund their portion of the grant without using tax dollars, but whether they get the grant or not, the staffing issue will have to be addressed.

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