Collingswood F.D., the busiest per-capita fire department in Camden County, expects to welcome two full-time firefighters to its ranks this October, thanks to a two-year, $239,184 federal SAFER grant.
The grant, which Mayor James Maley described as coming "at the tail end" of a Congressional economic recovery package, will fund the salary and benefits of both positions "with no cost to the Borough," according to an announcement on the Collingswood Fire Department website.
The hires also will bring part-timers Paul Bonamassa and Kyle Jarozynski into salaried positions, restoring the department to its full complement of 17 firefighter/EMS workers, said Collingswood Fire Chief Keith Davis.
The station hasn't added new staff to replace the losses of Lt. Steve Jack and Chief John Amet, who retired some time ago, Davis said.
"We’ve just been squeaking by," he said.
Bonamassa and Jarozynski have been working at the station for a little more than a year, Davis said, working their way up through the department. He expects the pair to be sworn into service at the Oct. 7 meeting of the Collingswood borough commissioners.
"[There's] not going to be that delay to fill those missing spots that we’ve been trying to backfill with part-timers and overtime," he said.
Davis added that the department is always accepting applications for volunteer firefighters and its junior explorer program, which last year added the retired Chief Amet's son, John.
At the station on Tuesday evening, Bonamassa said he was excited to join the department.
"I love this," he said. "I love being a fireman; it's all I ever wanted to do."
Bonamassa, who has volunteered in Mt. Ephraim for years, said that the Collingswood fire department is "like a big family.
"We have a lot of good firemen," he said. "Everybody gets along great. We help each other."
Collingswood F.D. also recently welcomed back into service its ambulance, BLS-16, the cost of restoring which the department offset by selling off its rescue truck to the Oaklyn fire department a year ago.
(Click above for photos of the restored vehicle.)