For the first time in the history of the Philadelphia Fire Department, the city has reopened four engine companies that it deactivated nearly 11 years ago to save money.
Using a $16.6 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the city was able to hire 121 firefighters also trained as emergency medical technicians to staff the newly opened companies, according to the city.
“It has truly been amazing to see the outpouring of support from the neighborhoods served by these companies and by the people who live here,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at a ceremony Saturday afternoon at the reopened Engine 1 company at Broad and Fitzwater Streets in Southwest Center City.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, the companies officially returned to service at Fourth and Arch Streets in Old City; Foulkrod and Darrah Streets in Frankford; Ridge Avenue and Cinnaminson Street in Roxborough; and at Engine 1.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said Saturday that he learned about the closed fire companies on his second day on the job in 2016.
“A big part of my journey was this quest to restore these companies that are absolutely, 100% — based on the data, based on the evidence — needed. They never should have been closed in the first place," Thiel said. “This is a core service. It’s a critical service. And these fire engines provide both fire and emergency medical services, not just to their immediate local areas, but they reinforce our system and literally serve every neighborhood of the city from corner to corner, every citizen of this great city.”
On Jan. 5, 2009, during the Great Recession, the city closed seven engine companies. The Fire Department is working to open the three companies that remain closed in Port Richmond, North Philadelphia, and South Philadelphia, according to the city.
The firefighters hired through the federal grant graduated from a nine-month training program at the Fire Academy on Nov. 13.
Kenney said the reopenings on Saturday symbolize his administration’s commitment to keeping residents safe and giving firefighters the resources they need to do their jobs and reduce response times.
“I want to thank you all for your dedication to our city and your willingness to put yourselves in harm’s way for us,” he said.