Harrisburg fire chief says grants will better equipment, training

HARRISBURG, Pa – (WHTM) The Harrisburg Fire Department looks to upgrade its equipment and increase manpower through requesting and receiving several grants.

When it comes to fighting fires, anyone in public safety will tell you status quo can be deadly.

Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline is always preaching the importance of training and keeping skills sharp.

“If you’re not keeping up with the latest and greatest technology, if you’re not making sure you have enough personnel to respond, you fall behind the eight ball,” he said.

Enterline said it is a unique and vital responsibility to not only protect the 50,000 residents living in Harrisburg, but HFD is also responsible for the nearly 40,000 state employees and workers who travel to the Capital City every day.

Hard work of city firefighters never fades, but unfortunately, the equipment they use does. Enterline said many of the nozzles date back to the early 80s and hoses get worn out over time.

Recently, Harrisburg was awarded a state fire grant of $13,500 to purchase 18 new nozzles, 70 sections of hose, and other upgrades.

On Monday night, Chief Enterline will ask City Council to approve federal grant applications that he hopes will bring in more than $500,000 for fire personnel and digital tablets.

The nearly half-million-dollar grant would pay for five firefighters salary and benefits over two years.

“That’s a complete truck company and an engine company if you run three on an engine and two on a truck,” Enterline said. “So, that’s two pieces of apparatus we could send out the door.”

Currently, there are 14 on a shift, which meets state and national standards. Enterline said he would like to see 16 to 18 per shift given the unique size of several buildings in Downtown Harrisburg and the Capitol Complex.

There are 72 firefighters in rotation among three stations citywide. Enterline said the department has continued to climb those numbers since being at its historic low of 62 in 2013, a major drop from the historic high of 109 in the late 90s and early 2000s.

For now, he’ll settle for a dozen more firefighters within the next couple years to boost the compliment to 84 or 85.

This will also free up another bugaboo for the department – overtime.

Public safety has no clock but it sure does have a hefty price when it comes to budget time. Enterline said having more firefighters on staff would save the city money and keep veterans free and up to date on the latest techniques.

“Having that manpower allows us to send more folks to training because we’re not paying overtime to backfill while they’re doing a training evolution,” he said.

Enterline said Harrisburg Fire Department is often called to help surrounding volunteer fire departments, which is another reason upgrades and additional manpower is needed. Back to that training, the Chief has a motto he believes saves lives.

“We can never train enough for a job that can kill you,” he said.

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