Fire stations in two Santa Rosa neighborhoods this week have put away the "Closed Today" signs that for more than two years had been posted on the doors for about half of each week.
With nine new recruits starting jobs funded for two years by a $2.6 million federal grant, one of the most visible signs of the city's financial crisis is gone.
"That's one more paramedic on the street, one more fire engine that can respond to an accident," Deputy Fire Chief Tony Gossner said.
Station 11 on Lewis Road in the Santa Rosa Junior College neighborhood and Station 10 on Corporate Center Parkway serving southwest Santa Rosa are now open every day.
The new firefighters completed Santa Rosa's fire academy training program April 26 and were were honored that evening at a badge-pinning ceremony at the Finley Community Center. They began filling shifts Monday.
Four of the new firefighters are military veterans. Their positions are funded for a third year with an additional $600,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The city also filled five vacant fire department positions created by retirements and made several promotions. About 20 fire personnel are expected to retire in the next two years, including possibly five by the end of this summer.
"It's a significant turnover, so we're really ramping up and planning so we have people qualified to fill those positions," Fire Chief Mark McCormick said.
City officials also are also researching other grants and considering whether it's worth revisiting a previously rejected annual emergency services fee of $4 for homeowners.
Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley said keeping the fire stations open full-time is a priority.