MIDDLETOWN, Ohio - Years of budget cuts and layoffs have severely hurt the Middletown Fire Department and the families it serves.
But a new federal grant is about to turn things around by paying for 12 new firefighters.
At any given moment Middletown has a total of 13 firefighters on duty, but most agree that number is barely enough for a town of more than 50,000 people.
According to Fire Chief Paul Lolli, adding 12 more positions will bring that number up to 16 per shift, meaning an additional fire engine will be available and ready to respond.
"This really was the catalyst we were looking for," Lolli said, "because the firefighters, they see help."
The grant is called a SAFER grant, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response. It totals $1.8 million and will cover two years.
But even if the grant isn't renewed, Middletown has a plan to maintain the positions after that.
"We created a firefighter/EMT position, which is a little bit of a lower pay classification and that little bit of a lower pay classification will save the city about $15,000 per position," Lolli said.
A firefighter/paramedic commands a greater salary, but Lolli said paramedics will still be on every run.
More good news: It shouldn't take long to get the new firefighters in action.
"We're looking at hopefully to get six on board by about the second week of September and the other six on board probably by the first week of October," Lolli said.