What Meridian's $8 million FEMA grant means for the city's fire department

Posted at 5:21 PM, Oct 31, 2023

MERIDIAN, Idaho — $8.1 million was awarded to the Meridian Fire Department, and after a month's extension, the city accepted the grant. The fire department will use the funding from FEMA for staffing.

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“You have a chance to help a lot more people and to get there faster, and save more lives,” said Meridian resident Nicholas Garcia.

This grant will allow the fire department to hire enough people to have four firefighters dispatched on engines, as opposed to the current three per engine. Fire Captain Derek Nelson feels this will benefit the department and the community.

“If we show up to a residential fire and there’s potentially a victim trapped, say, to really go into operation, and get somebody rescued, we would need four personnel. So we’ve been in this state of waiting for a second unit to come and assist if we had to effect a rescue,” said Nelson, who is also President of Meridian Professional Fire Local 4627.

The process for the FEMA grant has been years in the making as fire officials anticipate the growth in the valley.

The fire department was awarded the funds in September, and the city spent weeks figuring out if they should accept. Mayor Robert Simison told me he appreciated working with Meridian firefighters in the process, “...who helped us look at the grant to understand the long-term implications, as well as put together a plan that makes sense for taxpayers, to make sure ongoing revenue will pay for ongoing expenses.”

Now the department is looking to use the funds as soon as possible.

“From the moment of acceptance, the way I understand, is we have a 150-day window to begin the hiring and onboarding process of those personnel,”

RELATED | Meridian Fire Department opens Station 7 south of I-84 as community expands

Meridian’s public safety agencies continue to respond to growth, as a new Fire and Police station will open in late fall.

“The apparatus is already built and ready to go,” said Nelson.

Garcia said he lives near Owyhee High School and is happy to hear that emergency response will soon be more effective. Especially with Fire Station 8 soon to be opening in his neighborhood.

“Actually, [it’s] really helpful because where we live, it’s almost in the middle of nowhere. The nearest fire station was miles away, now there’s one next to our community, so I feel safe,” said Garcia.

Station 8 will be responding to emergency calls on November 10, and have their grand station opening on December 5.