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Wheeling FD Gets Grant for 6 Firefighters

WHEELING — The Wheeling Fire Department has received federal funds to hire six additional firefighters as first responders gear up to respond to incidents during Interstate 70 construction.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., announced this week that the Wheeling Fire Department was receiving a $723,797 grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

“The money will be used for adding manpower to our staffing,” said Wheeling Fire Chief Larry Helms.

A total of six firefighters will be hired — two for each of the department’s three shifts, he said.

Funding will pay 75 percent of the salary for the new hires during the first two years of the program, and 38 percent for the third year, according to Helms.

The fire department currently employs 93 people, including support staff.

Helms said there is a minimum staffing of 22 firefighters on each of the three shifts, and the hirings will increase that number to 24. There are typically 27 firefighters assigned to a shift.

“This hits at the perfect time,” Helms said of the grant. “We’re going to have some issues with road construction, and will need extra staff.

“This will help us out by increasing staff on each staff, and we will not incur a lot more overtime than anticipated.”

He expects to have the firefighters hired and on duty by January, when the grant funding begins.

The department already has a hiring list established, but the number of available applicants is growing thin, according to Helms.

The last round of testing for firefighters’ jobs yielded just 15 qualified applicants.

“We’ll probably have to give another test after the first of the year,” he said.

“There just aren’t as many interested in being firefighters as there used to be.”

He thanked Manchin and Capito for their assistance in securing the funding.

“We appreciate our local representatives for helping us to obtain the grant,” Helms said. “We’re more than pleased to be able to acquire and add personnel. It is definitely needed.”

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