SCOTT, LA — Right now the city relies on volunteers who respond to emergencies on weekends, but with this new grant, they’ll be able to hire three full-time firefighters to cover weekend shifts.
“When there’s an emergency every second counts, ” says Derrick Malbrew.
Derrick Malbrew knows that truth well. He’s lived in Scott for 10 years, and relied on the local fire department every day.
Malbrew stated, “We love our fire department here in Scott, and we know they do a lot. They’ve come to my house before when I had a carbon monoxide alarm go off at one point”.
Chief chad Sonnier says his department responds to an average of four emergencies a day, but on a tight budget, not every day is made equal.
“On weekends we have a strictly volunteer department, and when we have an incident, we have to have someone leave their home,” Fire Chief Chad Sonnier explained.
Driving to the fire department to get a truck and equipment slows response time, but a grant awarded this week is set to change the troubling trend. The FEMA S.A.F.E.R. Grant will help pay for the salaries and benefits of three full-time firefighters for the next three years. Chief Sonnier said he will start the hiring process tomorrow and hopes to have each spot filled by January.
“With someone being here at the station, the truck can leave immediately which will cut down on the travel time for the firefighters arriving on the scene and hopefully save someone’s life,” Sonnier said.
The change is also poised to save your wallet. Without 24/7 staffing, Scott’s class three fire ranking could have been downgraded. According to a study by the lafayette consolidated government, that could have increased fire insurance rates by nine percent.
“We’ve been contemplating this the last five or six years and when the grant came along was perfect timing,” Sonnier said.
The 278-thousand-dollar grant isn’t the only one the fire department is seeking. It plans to apply for another grant by November to build a third fire station on the north side of town. It’s something the growing community has been asking for.
“As we add more people, more businesses, there is going to be a need for another station, and if they can apply for more grants to get that done without having to necessarily have to back and get tax money from the community, we’d love to see that happen,” explained Malbrew.
The FEMA Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (S.A.F.E.R.) grant will fund 75 percent of the firemen’s salaries for the first two years and 35% a year three before the city accepts the full burden.
The Scott city council approved an application for the grant in February, and Scott was one only two fire departments in the state to receive it this year.