Fresno wins $7.4mil grant to hire 24 new firefighters

Fresno turned around bureaucratic black eye in 2020 into 27% growth in capacity to keep California’s fifth-largest city safe.

The City of Fresno’s fire department is about to get bigger after winning a hefty, $7.4 million grant from FEMA, the Dyer administration announced Wednesday.

The move will boost Fresno’s firefighting personnel levels from 95 to 103 firefighters on duty each day.


The big picture: While improving capacity for firefighting and emergency response are the end result of FEMA’s SAFER Grant, the victory for city leaders comes in exorcising bureaucratic demons from its own past.

  • In 2020, then-City Manager Wilma Quan and the Lee Brand mayoral administration ignored direction from the Fresno City Council to pursue the grant.
  • At the time, Fresno Fire’s top priority for the grant was to retain a safety officer, a move that would ensure the department met all recommendations tendered via a safety report from a 2015 safety incident involving a Fresno fire captain.
  • Two events shifted the tide. First, an ordinance drafted by Fresno City Council members Mike Karbassi and Esmeralda Soria requiring the city to apply for the SAFER Grants moving forward. Second? The election of Jerry Dyer as Mayor and a shake-up in the City Manager’s office.
  • Since those changes, Fresno has secured $20 million in Federal grants for firefighting, with staffing projected to jump 27.16 percent over a three-year span.

What they’re saying: In a statement, Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis and other Fresno city officials celebrated the grant award.

  • “This is very exciting news that will take our agency to the next level,” said Donis. “This will improve our response capabilities throughout the community and improve firefighter safety.”
  • “Keeping people safe is the number one priority for local government,” said Dyer. “I am proud to say that during my tenure as mayor, with the support of the City Council, we have added 66 firefighters to a department that has been overworked and understaffed for decades. These additional firefighters will improve service delivery and enhance the safety of our community.”
  • “The Fresno Fire Department is a point of pride in our city, and we know that the increase in staffing will allow the department to maintain pace with the growth of the city and address increasing service demand,” said Fresno City Manager Georgeanne White.
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