Federal grant to help Converse hire new firefighters to combat rapid growth

Five-year, $566,000 SAFE grant will allow city to hire 6 new firefighters

CONVERSE – A federal grant will allow the city of Converse to hire six new firefighters.

Chief Luis Valdez said the five-year, $566,000 SAFE grant is providing him the ability to increase his staff to 46.

Valdez is also excited about the opening of a new fire station next month. The 1,500-square-foot building will have 10 bedrooms, room for five trucks, an indoor gym and a community room to be used for training.

"We needed manpower, we needed improvements, we needed a place to put the firefighters too," Valdez said.

With more than 23 square miles to cover a 20,000 population, plus supporting about half a dozen other municipalities and an additional 20,000 homes, Valdez said the grant and new station will make it easier for them to do their job.

"We make a lot of calls. We make about 4,000 emergency calls a year (and) that number keeps getting higher and higher," he said. "Since 2010, we’ve experienced a 38 percent boom in population."

A walk through their current fire station 1 shows tight quarters, leaky roofs and windows and only two bathrooms for the entire staff.

Valdez said they have already hired firefighter and paramedic-trained members, but the addition of the new fire station will help them with recruiting and retention.

He said the city is already making plans to see if and where additional fire stations will be built to deal with the population growth. There are currently two fire stations that support the city.

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