COLUMBIA, Mo. -

The Columbia Fire Department received a grant extension this week that allows the agency to help pay for salaries and benefits.

The SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant from the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security was awarded to 5 firefighters starting in 2013, and will be extended for another year.

SAFER provides potential for grant fund extensions for qualified military veterans hired through the program.

According to Fire Chief Chuck Witt, 3 of the 5 firefighter hired by the Columbia Fire Dept. through the SAFER program are veterans.

The two-year grant over 2013 and 2014 totaled $658,120. The one year extension into 2015 will total $203,370.

SAFER was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer departments to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, front line firefighters available in their communities.