H-SANTA MARIA

Oct 10, 2012 9:34 PM by Nikki Ibarra

Santa Maria Fire trains new firefighters

The Santa Maria Fire Department is in the middle of training 10 new firefighters.

This week marks their third week of training.

A couple of months ago, the fire department received a SAFER grant, which is a federal grant, worth $1.6 million. The money from the grant will go towards the salaries and benefits for the 10 new firefighters for the next two years.

"We have to be masters at, at the trade. We have to know everything inside and out because we are who shows up when somebody needs us," said new recruit, Matthew Chircop.

More than 400 people applied for these 10 spots. "There's only 12 firefighters on our roster in rank currently. To hire 10 brand new ones, think about what that does to our organization," said Fire Chief Dan Orr.

Kristin Halbeisen has years of experience under her belt, and she's the only woman in the recruit class. "I'm kind of used to that. Where I come from, I'm used to working with the boys. For me, it's no different. I still have to do what they have to do, you know, it's fun. We have a good time," said Halbeisen.

The class is the biggest department has ever seen. "They're graded from the moment they walk in at 7:30 in the morning until they leave at 6 o'clock at night, and it's on everything," said Chief Orr.

With a couple of weeks left, Halbeisen looks forward to starting her new career as a firefighter; something she has dreamt of since she was a young girl.

"That's the goal of this whole thing is to get us prepared," added Halbeisen.

The SAFER grant will allow the fire department to freeze some money from Measure U, which is the sales tax increase that kicked off at the beginning of October.

The department will start using the money from the measure in about two years.

Chief Orr said the opening of fire station number 5 means a 25% improvement in response time.

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