The West Orange Fire Department will be bolstering its ranks in the coming months with the help of a $1.7 million federal grant awarded this week.
New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced Wednesday that the WOFD is one of two fire departments receiving federal funding to hire firefighters through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program.
“I’m extremely excited to receive a grant of this nature,” said WOFD Chief Peter Smeraldo on Thursday. “It reflects the hard work of the members of the department ... and the job they do.”
The funding awaits approval by the township council at its next meeting on Sept. 11. After that, Smeraldo said the money will immediately be used to hire an estimated 10 firefighters.
The grant, said Smeraldo, “recognizes that we need some assistance, and they understand that we have budgetary challenges -- just like a lot of other places.
Since hitting a 20-year high of 93 firefighters in 2006, the department is now staffed at 78 firefighters, according to township documents. The fire department renegotiated its contract , so most losses were primarily due to attrition, said Smeraldo.
However, the firefighters will not start right away. The new hires will need to complete training at the Essex County Fire Academy in Cedar Grove. The training will take about four months.
The new firefighters are expected to be sworn in soon after the new year.
The only other agency to receive funding from the same grant was Hoboken Fire Department. It was awarded $1.1 million.