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Federal funds helps Lawrence hire 14 new firefighters » Merrimack Valley » EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

LAWRENCE — The city welcomed 14 new firefighters this week thanks to $6.6 million in federal Homeland Security funds.The new hires help a department decimated by layoffs, and they are the first new firefighters hired by the city in six years.”This is great; superb. We’re trying to provide safety in the city but without the firefighters we can’t get the job done,” said Acting Fire Chief Jack Bergeron. “Our most valuable resources are the firefighters.”The firefighters were sworn in by Mayor William Lantigua in the City Council Chambers Wednesday. Bergeron pinned badges on them.The men are Johnny Jimenez, Michael Fornesi, Shane Donahue, Christopher King, Federico Rosario and Richard Mendonca all of Lawrence; Michael Buzzell, Michael Maglio and Matthew Peek all of Haverhill; Chad Nickerson of Dracut; Brandon Collier of Worcester; Corey Scott of Auburn; George Espinoza of Boston and Brian Murray of Woburn.In addition to the swearing in ceremony, Lt. Eric Zahn was promoted to captain and firefighter Dave Ferris is now a lieutenant. Both men joined the department in 1997.The city laid off 23 firefighters in July in an effort to balance the budget. In addition to the layoffs, several high-ranking fire officials were demoted and the Engine 9 firehouse at 161 Bailey St., was closed — the third fire station in the city that has been shut down due to the city’s financial crisis.The 14 new hires will bring the total number of firefighters to 120, but Bergeron said the department is still 16 members short.The grant from the Department of Homeland Security was awarded for two years.The new firefighters won’t be available fulltime until early next year. They must attend the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. The next class starts Jan. 9.In the meantime, the men will take a 12-week course three days a week to become emergency medical technicians. On the other two days, a training captain will teach them basic firefighting skills. Shane Donahue said being a firefighter is a way to give back to his hometown. Others like Johnny Jimenez said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, stirred an interest in becoming a firefighter. “When you go to work as a firefighter you can make a difference,” said Jimenez, 27, who also served with the Army in Iraq.Federico Rosario, 24, found his inspiration from one of his Army buddies while serving in Iraq, who often talked about being a volunteer firefighter in North Carolina.”The more he talked about his job, the more interested I became because I like to work with people and help people,” Rosario said. City Council Chambers was filled with family members and city hall employees.Natalie Mendonca attended the ceremony with sons R.J. and Jacob.”It was awesome because he gets to save people in danger and he gets to wear a cool badge,” R.J. said. After the ceremony, those attending enjoyed a vanilla cake filled with pineapple made by Maria Rosa owner of Yeska Cakes in Lawrence.

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