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Clay County awarded grant to hire 21 new firefighters

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Updated: 1/14 1:22 pm
ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- More help is on the way in Clay County. Clay County Fire Rescue got the official go-ahead to hire more firefighters.

Nationwide, $338 million is being divvied up to fire departments.

"We were one of the first in the country to receive our funding," said Clay County Fire Rescue Chief Lorin Mock.

In Clay County, seven firehouses have been making do with less. Staff reductions at Meadowbrook Station 18 has had Beatrice McInnis on edge.

"It's not good to not have all we need. It's great to have what we do need," she said.

She's relieved to learn help is on the way. Clay County Fire Rescue has been awarded $2.2 million in federal grant money designed to help departments hire more firefighters. Clay will add 21 of them.

"I don't think we had an unsafe response for it. It required us to assemble more units from larger areas of the county to address the same need as we had before and this will reduce that need to do that and increase the effectiveness of each of the engine companies that received that staffing," Mock said.

The issue at hand, though, is what will happen in two years when the grant expires. The county doesn't have the funds to pay the additional salaries.

"We would have the opportunity to just lay off all those firefighters at that point. I don't think that's a wise decision," Mock said.

Mock doesn't think it will come to that, because the added staff should cut down overtime expenses drastically.

Mock said he hopes to have the new hires working by March. He was actually interviewing candidates Wednesday morning.

An application for funding was also submitted by Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. That is still under review.

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