SHREWSBURY - The town Fire Department was recently awarded two federal grants worth a total of nearly $585,000 that will support increased staffing and enhanced fire safety programs.

Distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant provides funding for fire departments to help increase and maintain the number of firefighters available to respond to emergencies in the community.

The grant covers three years, starting next July 1. The Shrewbury Fire Department will use the funds to recruit and retain an additional four full-time career firefighters. The $570,525 grant will cover about 75% of the salaries and benefits in the first two years and 35% of those costs in the third year. Once the grant expires, the town will be responsible for maintaining the cost of the positions.

"This award will greatly enhance our ability to respond to fires and other emergencies and it is a large step toward the staffing level we are trying to achieve," said Fire Chief James Vuona, in a statement.

Selectmen gave Vuona the go-ahead to pursue the grant back in March. 

Separately, the department was also awarded a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant worth $14,286, also from FEMA.

Vuona said that funding will allow the department to create a sustainable fire alarm installation, fire prevention education and at-home risk assessment program to reduce the risk of fire and subsequent loss of life or property within the target populations. Shrewsbury fire officials have created an intervention strategy to mitigate the risks associated with fire loss, which outlines the need for fire alarm installation and public education.

As part of the project, the Fire Department will install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for residents.