Federal grant allows Salem Fire Department to increase staff
SALEM — The Salem Fire Department has increased the size of its staff for the first time in 28 years thanks to a federal grant.
Fire Chief Paul Parisi said the department hadn’t increased its staff since 1990, even though the number of incidents they respond to has increased 80 percent over that time period.
Now, thanks to a $1.5 million SAFER grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Parisi has been able to add eight new firefighters, increasing each of his four shift rotations from 15 to 17 members.
There are now a total of 68 firefighters.
The federal government pays for 75 percent of the grant in the first two years and 35 percent in the third year. After that, the town takes on the full cost of the additional staff.
He said the SAFER grant “brought us to where we need to be for now.”
But he’s projecting demand for department services to increase by 20 percent in the next five years, in part due to major developments in town such as Tuscan Village. Plus, he said there’s been long-standing need to expand services into the west side of Salem.
Parisi said Kuster and the other congressional delegates have been champions of grant programs for local fire departments.
Last November, the department was also awarded a $384,000 grant to buy 49 self-contained breathing apparatuses, a new compressor and spare bottles.
“I was pleased to hear from Chief Parisi and the firefighters about the work being done to bring on more firefighters at the Salem Fire Department so they are able to respond to the high demand for services in the community,” Kuster said.
Parisi brought up a concern he has with some new sober houses getting set up without adhering to fire safety codes, which puts them in a difficult situation when they need to enforce the codes.
“We’re certainly not against recovery,” Parisi said.
Kuster said there may be an opportunity to find grant programs that can be used to help.
She also congratulated Parisi on his recent confirmation by the Executive Council as the new state fire marshal. He begins his new role on Aug. 1.