The Bastrop Fire Department is seeking to add six to 10 full-time firefighters next year and transition the department away from its reliance on part-time workers.
“This helps with our response times, this helps with our safety. We all agree this is a great way to go,” said Bastrop Assistant City Manager Trey Job.
The city has both a Plan A and Plan B to fund the staffing.
Plan A would use a federal grant program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that provides funding to fire departments to help them increase the number of trained, front-line firefighters.
If the city receives the $908,000 federal grant, it would then budget $71,700 as part of its grant match to hire 10 full-time firefighters.
The federal grant, known as the Staffing For Adequate Fire And Emergency Response grant, or SAFER, would help finance firefighters over a three-year period. The department expects to know if it is awarded the grant sometime this month.
“What that allows you to do is bring on a full-time fire (department) incrementally as you can afford it,” Job said.
If the city is not awarded the grant, it would follow Plan B, which calls for budgeting $58,000 to pay for six full-time firefighters for the department.
Both plans would allow the department to keep a firefighter at the downtown station overnight to help keep response times low.
The department currently has two full-time employees, the fire chief and assistant fire chief, and keeps a fluctuating roster of part-time firefighters and volunteer staff.
Currently, the department employs 32 part-time firefighters that cover two 24-hour shifts seven days a week. The department’s pool of part-timers all work for other cities or districts, and the process of filling daily shifts with firefighters from other agencies “frequently results in a lack of coverage when a call comes in,” the department said in its grant application.
“There was a point where we had 30 part-time firefighters, and the cost of those 30 and the cost of bringing on six full-time firefighters, the difference is $58,000,” said Fire Chief Andres Rosales. “We’re at a point where it makes sense to bring on full-time people.”
Rosales said the department would only keep part-time personnel to fill-in for vacations or when firefighters are out sick. However, the part-time shifts would be eliminated and the department would keep only full-time firefighters under the proposal, he said.
The full-time firefighters would be paid $60,552, including benefits.
The city’s fire department has been growing since it hired its first full-time fire chief in 2016. Earlier this year, the department added its second full-time staffer an assistant chief who also serves as fire inspector and transformed its downtown station into an overnight lodge for around-the-clock part-time firefighters.
In February, the department received numerous donations in building supplies and labor — reducing reconfiguration cost from $65,000 to $12,000 — by which it was able to transform the entire blueprint of the downtown station.
The 24-hour staffing helps the department keep its response times during both daytime and nighttime hours between five and six minutes.
In January, the City Council approved issuing a $2.8 million certificate of obligation bond for an 100-foot Mid-Mount Aerial truck, a pumper truck and other needed equipment.
The $1.7 million aerial truck includes a 37-foot ladder that is able to discharge 1,500 gallons of water per minute from its bucket while firefighters control it remotely from the ground. The second truck is a $921,000 pumper truck that replaced a 2003 fire suppression pumper that had surpassed its 15-year lifespan.
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