DES MOINES, Iowa -- Wednesday night, the Des Moines Fire Department presented two items to City Council it has been waiting a long time for. In early August, the department was awarded two grants from the Department of Homeland Security.
The first grant is worth $1.1 million and will allow the department to upgrade all of the breathing apparatuses for its crews.
The second SAFER grant is worth $2.5 million and gives the department the option to hire 13 new firefighters.
“This is great news for us,” said Fire Chief John TeKippe. “From 2008 to 2012, we had a lot of budget reductions. Those put a real strain on being able to keep things in service.”
Since 2008, the number of firefighters with the department has dropped from 311 to 282. With the hiring of 13 new fire crew members, Chief TeKippe says it will finally put them at full strength.
“Getting up to 295, will allow us to have our apparatus in service every day and that’s pretty exciting,” said TeKippe.
It’s been a long process to get these grants as the department has been turned down once before for these grants. So not only is this helping it city be safer, it’s also helping to mend some bridges with TeKippe and the firefighters’ union. TeKippe has been criticized by the union for thelow staffing level, so this new grant is a positive all the way around.
“They have been a part of this. It’s been a group effort. For about two-plus years. So it’s good to celebrate together,” said TeKippe.
TeKippe anticipates that the new hires will be selected soon and they could begin the training academy as early as mid-September.