DeKalb Fire Department awarded $2.7M federal grant to aid staffing levels

Multi-million grant will go towards 9 new hires, emergency response efforts, says city manager

DeKALB – The DeKalb Fire Department has been awarded a multi-million dollar federal grant that will help bring more firefighter paramedics onto the payroll, DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said.

Nicklas said during a Monday City Council meeting that the city’s fire department received a 2020 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, federal grant in the amount of $2,721,256.47 on Aug. 31. He said the grant will help cover the cost of hiring nine more firefighter paramedics.

Nicklas said the three-year grants are “not easy to come by” and DeKalb was one in four communities in the country to get the more than $2.7 million grant.

“Obviously, we’ll have a lot of paperwork there,” Nicklas said. “But it’s an extraordinary accomplishment.”

Nicklas said the positions will help reach the city’s goal of increasing the fire department’s minimum daily shift staffing from 13 to 16 firefighter paramedics by Oct. 2, 2024. He said that goal came from the 2021 to 2024 union agreement between the city of DeKalb and DeKalb International Association of Firefighters, Local 1236.

DeKalb city officials wrote in a Monday news release that the award funds also will be used for operational personnel salaries, insurance, pension contributions and other contractual benefits over the course of three years.

“These are DeKalb’s front-line emergency crews on ambulances and engines,” city staff wrote.

City officials wrote in the release that increasing the fire department’s daily minimum staffing benefits citizens by making “quicker and more efficient fire and emergency medical responses” possible.

“The increased staffing will also reduce budgetary reliance upon overtime and the likelihood of on-duty injuries,” city staff wrote.

The application was a collaborative effort by city of DeKalb and DeKalb IAFF, Local 1236, according to the news release.

Nicklas said city staff is “excited” to receive the grant and it also will allow the city “to do some cost shifting” in city finances soon.

“I’m excited to bring you options in the future on that,” Nicklas said. “But for now, I think we can take satisfaction for a job very well done.”

Katie Finlon

Katie Finlon

Katie Finlon covers local government and breaking news for DeKalb County in Illinois. She has covered local government news for Shaw Media since 2018 and has had bylines in Daily Chronicle, Kendall County Record newspapers, Northwest Herald and in public radio over the years.