New Grant Will Pay for More Firefighters in Modesto

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MODESTO -- The Modesto Fire Department will be fully staffing a north Modesto fire station that has been operating without an engine company due to budget constraints.

The city council approved a $2.2 million state firefighting grant that will pay for nine additional firefighters.

Station 11 on Pelandale Avenue has only a truck company that can respond to accidents and rescues but can't deliver water to extinguish fires. The engine company has those capabilities.

A separate $1 million grant to train paramedic firefighters, however, is on hold even thought the fire department was awarded the money.

City officials first wanted to assess how firefighter paramedics would be augmented by private ambulance company AMR at a time when city pension costs and other expenses are going up. The training grant also requires a $108,000 match from the city.

But newly elected City Councilwoman Kristi Ah You was astounded that the city manager chose not to bring the grant to the council for consideration.

"It’s $1 million, one hundred thousand dollars in training for our community and for something of that magnitude, I felt the council needed the opportunity to make that decision," said Ah You.

Ah You said a $58,000 consultants report has already outlined the needs and goals of the city and that action on the grant, which provides equipment as well as training, needs to be approved sooner rather than later.

“I would hate for us to still be making decisions two years from now and lose that window of opportunity for those guys to get the training," said Ah You.

A majority of the council agreed and voted with her to have the grant issue put on the council agenda for next Tuesday's meeting.