Five laid-off Long Beach firefighters have jobs again, after the city's fire department was awarded federal money to pay for their positions for the next two years.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the five firefighters and city officials gathered outside the department Saturday to announce the grant totaling $910,530 from the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program. Officials said the extra personnel is especially needed now as the city rebuilds after it was devastated by superstorm Sandy.
"It is greatly appreciated to bring back these five firefighters under one of the darkest times this city has gone through in its lifetime," said city Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins.
Schumer spoke of the city's devastation.
"We suffered tremendous damage here in Long Beach . . . but praise God, the loss of life and limb was minimized. The danger to life and limb was minimized mainly because of these folks who are standing behind me and the people like them," said Schumer, who helped to secure the grant money for the city.
"I have always been a big supporter of the firefighters, both paid and volunteer, because these folks are like soldiers . . . they risk their lives for our safety," he said.
The five firefighters' jobs were eliminated in July due to budget cuts and they are slated to start work again on Thursday, according to fire officials. The department now has about 30 paid-firefighters and 150 volunteers.
Mike Seemann's family, including his wife and baby daughter, were at the fire house to celebrate his rehiring. Seemann, 33, who volunteered for the fire department for about six years before getting a job, said the news was almost too good to be true.
"It is one weight lifted off," said Seemann, whose home was destroyed in the storm.
Alex Sharpe, 28, another one of the five, said he had worked for Long Beach about nine months before he was laid off. Since then, he has been mostly unemployed, and when he heard the news, he said he was happy. "I was dancing in the middle of the street."