Bryan County Emergency Services has been awarded a $2.3 million grant to hire a dozen firefighter/EMTS.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency SAFER grant, which will be paid out over three years, will allow the county to add the additional first responders, according to County Administrator Ben Taylor.
Taylor said he was notified Wednesday the county will receive the grant, which will cover 100 percent of the firefighters’ salaries the first year, then 75 percent of their salaries, then 50 percent. The county will pay the rest of the cost.
Bryan County Emergency Services Director Freddy Howell said he was ecstatic when he heard the news. His department provides the county’s emergency management, fire protection and emergency medical services and has a total of approximately 75 employees.
“This comes at a great time for us to hire additional people without asking taxpayers for the additional money,” he said, adding ”They’re sorely needed to help us keep pace with the growth.”
The county has budgeted more than $6.4 million for fire and EMS for the 2020 fiscal year, which ends in December. It has been beefing up emergency services in recent budgets to keep pace with a population that has grown by more than 25 percent since 2010, according to county officials.
Howell said that while fire calls in Bryan County mirror a national downward trend due to improved building codes and better education about fire prevention, fires now burn hotter and tend to be bigger and more dangerous.
But while fire calls are going down, calls for EMS and first responder help are increasing, Howell said.