Atlantic City added 13 firefighters to its ranks Friday as part of a federal grant that runs out in about five months.
The city was awarded the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant in February 2011. The grant allowed the Fire Department to bring back 28 laid-off firefighters and hire an additional 20 that November. Several promotions also were paid for with the $9.7 million grant.
“We are aggressively going after a SAFER retention grant,” Deputy Chief Vincent Granese said Friday, as the 13 new recruits went through an informal welcome and orientation before starting training Monday. “We pick up another two years if we get that.”
If the city does not get the retention grant, the new firefighters could be out of a job in May.
Granese and Capt. Angelo DeMaio were instrumental in acquiring the original grant, Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said, exhibiting confidence that the money would again come through. Brooks even said there could be another small class in the spring after several retirements expected in February.
“Don’t worry about anything else,” DeMaio told the new recruits, who he will train for the next eight weeks. “Don’t worry about funding.”
Instead, he told them to concentrate on what he will be teaching them.
“I’m just going to put a lot of information in your hands, in your hands and in your bodies,” DeMaio said. “I expect you to give me what I give you.”
Under the rules, the recruits have to have lived in the city for the past four years. But many indicated they are either lifelong residents or moved into the city as children.
“I’m as excited as I am happy to see Atlantic City products taking advantage of the opportunity that’s being afforded to you,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford said.
“I want to say congratulations,” he said earlier. “You all are blessed, and I hope you realize that. You’re fortunate to embark on a career that I think is a tremendous opportunity.”
This isn’t the first time several will work for the city. About half introduced themselves as city lifeguards.
“Our ocean water rescue component just picked up a little,” DeMaio said.
Brooks told the men that he has worn his 34 years of service as a “badge of honor.”
“The job is a privilege,” he said. “It’s an honor to become a firefighter.”
“As of today, you represent all of us,” said Public Safety Director Willie Glass, a retired police officer. “We’re in this together.”
The new recruits, in order of their test standing, are Jason Pendlebury, Timothy Brining, Richard Restaino, Patrick McDevitt, Joseph Welsh III, Derrick Williams, William Nagle, Adrian Wilson Jr., Richard DiCioccio, Eric Koob, Patrick Reynolds, Matthew Dougherty and Mauro Sandoval.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow @LyndaCohen on Twitter