Long Beach resident Christopher Koehle, one of five firefighters laid off by the city earlier this year due to budget cuts, received the news that he was going to be rehired by the Fire Department last Friday, after Sen. Charles Schumer announced that he secured a $910,530 grant for the department.
“I was very excited and very happy,” said Koehle, 24. “It was a sense of relief — we knew that we were in a waiting game, and now it’s over and it’s time to go back to work.”
Standing alongside firefighters and city officials, Schumer held a press conference in Long Beach last Saturday where he announced the grant, saying that it is aimed at bolstering “the nation’s ability to respond to fire and fire-related hazards and improve the nation’s overall level of preparedness.”
The award is provided by the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program and administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In a statement, Schumer said that the funding will allow the Fire Department, which played a pivotal role in the city’s response to Hurricane Sandy, to rehire the five firefighters who were laid off in July.
“With these funds, Long Beach residents can rest easy knowing even more firefighters stand at the ready to protect their community,” Schumer said in a statement. “This department showed tremendous bravery during the superstorm, and the community should feel even more secure now that it will grow by five members.”
“This a major step forward — Long Beach is now in a state of recovery, both physically and financially,” added City Manager Jack Schnirman. “This grant is a model of everyone coming together in a time of crisis – the city administration, Fire Department, and our federal partners — all to serve the larger missions of ensuring public safety, storm recovery, and financial recovery.”
Koehle, who is currently attending LaGuardia Community College to receive paramedic certification, said that the department applied for the grant in August, shortly after the layoffs.