After applying for five years running, the Conway Fire Department has received a $319,000 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant.

Assistant Fire Chief Mike Winter said the money will be used to hire "three additional front-line firefighters." 

Winter said the grant, which will pay a portion of the new firefighters’ salaries for four years, is among the largest the department has ever received.

In the first year, the grant will pay 90 percent of the salaries, decreasing over the second, third and fourth years to 80, 50 and 30 percent, respectively. By the fifth year, the city would assume the full cost.

CFD has not yet finalized the placement of the new positions, Winter said, but likely possibilities include upgrading one of the department’s few remaining two-firefighter engine companies to three-man companies or putting a reserve unit into service.

"The National Fire Protection Association suggests four firefighters per engine company, and we currently have three on most companies, but a couple still have two firefighters," he said. "This grant is another step toward meeting the NFPA recommendation."

At any rate, he said, CFD can "most definitely" put them to good use.

In the past, Winter said, CFD has requested as many as 18 new firefighters when applying for the grant, thereby greatly increasing the grant proceeds. In its successful application for this year’s round of grant proceeds, CFD requested only three and "really pushed the issue of getting us a step closer with the NFPA standards," which he said seems to have been a successful strategy.

The grants were announced Friday by U.S. Representatives Vic Snyder and Marion Berry and U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln. The SAFER grant is funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Grant proceeds statewide total $1.6 million.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at joe.lamb@thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)