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Fire Chief updates City Council on Harrisonburg’s future Fire Station 5

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 9:41 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - After Harrisonburg City Council approved the Friendly City’s fifth fire station last month, they heard an update Tuesday night on the timeline of opening those doors.

Harrisonburg Fire Chief Matthew Tobia told the council about an opportunity to reduce costs for taxpayers. The Harrisonburg Fire Department is eyeing the SAFER Grant, which means Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant.

The SAFER Grant is federally-funded through the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, distributing $560,000,000 to 500 recipients. If granted, it would provide 100% of the salaries for new firefighters for 3 years, covering the costs until 2026.

If the department is awarded this grant, Chief Tobia said Fire Station 5 could open in December 2023/January 2024, but without the grant, he suggested pushing back the opening date by one year.

He said this would allow the city to use its American Rescue Plan Act federal funding for construction, and also give the department the chance to reapply for the SAFER Grant.

“The grant is evaluated on nationally recognized criteria. They look at improvement in service by reducing response times,” Chief Tobia said. “The addition of the fifth station fits exactly into that model because it’s going to cut response times in half to a very highly-identified, needed area within the city.”

The department hopes to hire 15 firefighters who will staff Fire Station 5 24/7/365. The plan is to have all the new firefighters hired and trained before Fire Station 5 opens.

The official location of the station is still to be determined but will be in the Park View section of Harrisonburg near Eastern Mennonite University and Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community.

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