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Fire department's SAFER grant application denied

A city application was denied for a grant that first funded hiring two Brainerd firefighters.

The Brainerd Fire Department recently learned that its application was turned down for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response or SAFER grant.

Just what that means for the department and the city is unclear right now, said fire chief Kevin Stunek. The issue will go before the Brainerd City Council at its Monday meeting.

Two firefighters were first hired in 2010 through the grant, which covered wages and benefits at no cost to the city from April 2010 through April 2013.

The city reapplied for the funds late last year in effort to keep the two firefighters on staff.

In doing so, it was under grant criteria that the city would lay off the two SAFER grant firefighters by the end of 2013.

After that move, one of the firefighters found another job. The council decided to keep the other firefighter, Cory Zeien, on staff since fellow firefighter Charlie Dunemann is still out on worker’s compensation leave.

Zeien, the council decided, should be on staff at least until Dunemann returns or there was official word received on if the new SAFER grant application was approved or denied. There are five active firefighters on staff, not counting Dunemann.

Now, since receiving word of the grant’s denial, just what will happen to the staffing levels at the Brainerd Fire Department is up in the air.

“It’s pretty vague now,” Stunek said. “At this point, we will have to sit down with the city and look at the budget.”

Stunek says he’s not sure why Brainerd’s SAFER grant application was denied.

“They don’t specify why,” he said.

Stunek added that’s he was a little surprised about the news, but noted “a lot of factors go into” the decision process.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at