The Waco Fire Department may soon be expanding its force by nine firefighters thanks to an almost $843,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced Wednesday that the Waco Fire Department was awarded the six-figure grant from FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program. The grant will provide direct funding to the department and is intended to help recipients hire more firefighters or, in the case of volunteer forces, recruit firefighters.

“Firefighters are on the front lines of keeping our communities safe, and they deserve every resource possible at their disposal,” Cornyn said in a press release. “I applaud area leaders for their work to obtain this grant, and I’m grateful to the Trump Administration for supporting the Waco Fire Department.”

Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum said the department’s initial plan is to use the grant money to hire nine new firefighters to work out of the soon-to-be completed Station No. 5 at 4515 Bagby Ave., near New Road.

Station No. 5 is temporarily being housed at the Central Fire Station with fire administration offices, at 1016 Columbus Ave. Firefighters moved into the Central Fire Station from the old Station No. 5 at 2624 Speight Ave. in early 2016.

The new Station No. 5 had been slated to open this month, but officials said an opening next month is more likely. Waco Fire now employs 204 firefighters.

Deputy Fire Chief R.M. Bergerson said the grant will provide incremental funding over four years. The money would pay 100% of the cost of hiring the new firefighters in their first year, 75% for their second year, 50% for their third year and 25% for their fourth year.

The city would pick up the remainder of the cost.

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Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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