Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stimulus brings back 16 firefighter recruits

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By Scott J. Croteau TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
scroteau@telegram.com


WORCESTER — City Manager Michael V. O’Brien walked through the Fire Department’s training facility yesterday and shook hands with 16 new firefighters, congratulating them as they begin their careers.

It was a much different message from the one recruits heard in the spring, when they were told they were a casualty of hard times and would not be brought into the department.

Federal stimulus money made available last month allowed the city to bring back the recruits. Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio said the city received $1.18 million, more than had been expected.

“I imagine this has to be a good feeling for all of you,” Mr. O’Brien said, in the midst of piles of turnout gear on the floor.

The stimulus money will pay for the recruits to be in the department until Nov. 15, 2010. The Fire Department has budgeted for 384 firefighters.

There were 374 firefighters working in the department and the recruits increase that to 390 positions.

Mr. O’Brien believes attrition will reduce the number of firefighters to 384 by the end of the fiscal year.

He told the recruits that city officials are managing the books, but the stability of the economy and the state budget cannot be predicted.

“We’re planning for you,” he told the recruits.

The recruits will go through a one-week refresher training course and meet privately with the chief before getting their assignments.

“Some will be reporting for duty Sunday morning,” said District Fire Chief Walter C. Giard, head of training.

Mayor Konstantina B. Lukes and District 4 City Councilor Barbara G. Haller extended their appreciation to the recruits for coming back.

“We’re just a few weeks away from our Dec. 3 anniversary, which reminds us all of the enormous responsibility and burden you may be feeling in the future,” Mrs. Lukes said, noting the 10-year anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire, which took the lives of six city firefighters.

“We have always admired our Fire Department for the service they have given to the city.”

The recruits all nodded their heads when asked if they recalled the fire.

“I think we all lived through it,” Sean Sullivan said. “We remember it, every one of us.”

Many recruits were eager to get on their engines and serve the city. Paul McCaffrey, 33, was working in financial services before being told he was coming back.

“It’s a great relief to be back,” he said. “It feels great.”
http://www.telegram.com/article/2009...911170406/1101
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By Scott J. Croteau TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF