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Several firefighters forced off the job after Fort Myers loses federal grant

Posted at 6:31 AM, Feb 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-07 06:34:48-05

Several firefighters at the Fort Myers Fire Department will lose their jobs this spring after the city was not awarded a grant used to fund staffing. 

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant was last awarded to the city in 2015. The federal grant expires on February 7th 2018, and without the funding, Fort Myers Fire Chief John Caufield says he will have to lay off 6-8 firefighters. 

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Fort Myers Fire Department has been dependent on a federal grant from FEMA the last couple of years in order to pay for staffing. This year, the department reapplied but did not receive the grant, leaving many firefighters jobs in jeopardy. 

“It has a real negative impact on our department, on our continuity, and our ability to provide the highest level of emergency services possible," said Fort Myers Fire Chief John Caufield. 

Caufield explained that the dependence on the grant came after the Great Recession nearly a decade ago. The Department has been using the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), last awarded in 2015. 

But the grant, funding the jobs of 18 firefighters, expires February 7, 2018. The Department did reapply, but this year they did not get it. It means six to eight firefighters will be laid off come Spring, which is a little over a quarter of the daily staff. 

“It becomes increasingly more difficult to kinda stretch those limited resources so that we can still maintain the appropriate level of emergency response.” 

Caufield says he would prefer for the City of Fort Myers to re-budget and fund the jobs of the firefighters, instead of depending on grants. 

The City told Fox 4 that they will be looking for more grants to apply for.