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Reading fire dept. decides to hire 20 new people with grant

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 04 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 05 2013 05:50:09 PM CST

Reading fire dept. decides to hire 20 new people with grant

READING, Pa. -

The Reading Fire Department is looking to add 20 firefighters to its ranks, instead of an original 30.

The department was awarded a federal grant, but now it only wants to use a third of it.

The grant is only good for two years, and come 2015, at least 10 people would have been out of a job, said officials.

The Reading Fire Department is one of the busiest in the state of Pennsylvania. It's been battling against a manpower shortage, but now with the help of a federal grant, it's asking FEMA to hire 20 additional firefighters instead of 30.

"I'm the one yelling the loudest we need more staffing, but I don't want to have to tell somebody they're out of a job," said Mike Shoumlisky, Reading Firefighter's Union.

The original grant was worth $4 million. Now, the city is looking to cut it back to $2.6 million.

"We actually had to apply to the federal emergency management agency to reduce the number we had asked for," said Chief David Hollinger, Reading Fire Department.

The department could not sustain 30 firefighters when that grant runs out in March 2015, said Hollinger.

According to state and federal law, the layoffs would have come from upper management or the new hires.

The Chief said he wants the new hires to operate a 4th medic truck, and more manpower would give the department a boost and help increase the number of firefighters per shift.

"At the end of the day we're looking to increase the number of firefighters and EMTs available to protect the residents of the city," said Hollinger.

Friday is the deadline for the grant, and city council is holding a special meeting on Thursday to discuss it, said officials.