$5.7 million grant to rehire 21 laid-off Camden firefighters

Almost a year and a half after being laid-off, the last round of unemployed Camden firefighters will be back to work in the next few weeks.

Camden once again secured significant funding from FEMA. City and State officials announced Wednesday that a $5.7 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant will pay for the salary and benefits of 21 laid off firefighters.

Facing a $26.5 million budget deficit in January 2011, the city let go 336 workers, including 163 police officers and 60 firefighters. A $5.1 SAFER grant last year along with other state and federal sources of funding allowed Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd to rehire most laid-off firefighters.

This new round of SAFER money is expected to cover salary and benefits for the remaining 21 firefighters for two years. Fire Chief Michael Harper expects the fighters to start by July 1.

After the rehires come aboard, the department will have 205 firefighters to cover the 9-square-mile city.