New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell confirmed on my Wednesday program that his administration is pursuing a federal SAFER grant in hopes of keeping Engine 8 in service. Mitchell confessed he didn't know that the application period was upon us until I asked him last week if he planned to apply.

It is a wise decision to apply since the public has grown weary of budget cuts that have impacted public safety, particularly the New Bedford Fire Department, for several years now.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency considers requests for multi-year grants to assist local fire departments throughout the country to meet staffing needs. New Bedford has received several SAFER Grants in the past and may not qualify for funding in this round of awards as a result.

It is always worthwhile to apply.

There have been numerous large fires in New Bedford just since Thanksgiving. Several of them have occurred in the area serviced by Engine 8. Talk of retiring that apparatus has rattled a lot of nerves in the near North End of town.

Under considerable pressure from the firefighter's union and the public, the Mitchell Administration ended the controversial rolling service blackouts but closed Station 11 instead. The thought that Engine 8 could disappear only added to the angst.

A SAFER grant could help to keep Engine 8 in service a while longer. Perhaps in the meantime, we can identify a more permanent source of funding. Applying for the grant is a wise idea, and I am glad the administration has chosen to pursue it.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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