WASHINGTON — More Portland firefighters will be on the streets and the department’s Heavy Rescue Vehicle will roll once again – at least for two years – with the aid of a $1 million federal grant.

The money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow the Portland Fire Department to hire 12 people, partially filling a 19-person hole created by budget cuts over the past several years, according to Maine lawmakers and fire department officials.

That loss of firefighters was not made up by paying overtime to keep more bodies in the fire stations. So the gain of 12 firefighters will mean an additional three people on duty per shift, bringing the total number of Portland firefighters on hand at any given time to 33 from 30, said Fire Chief Frederick Chief Frederick J. LaMontagne.

It also means the return to action of the department’s Heavy Rescue Vehicle, which carries specialized tools, such as the so-called jaws of life, to handle search and rescues at industrial, vehicle and other accident scenes. With the loss of personnel, the rescue vehicle sat empty and those tools were spread around the department, said John Brooks, a Portland firefighter and president of the firefighters’ union Local 740.

“That (heavy rescue) company not being there has been felt, it has had an impact on us,” Brooks said. “To get them back will be great.”

The grant, from FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program, was first announced in late April by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Collins said the federal aid program for fire and emergency responders thus far has sent a total of more than $55 million to various Maine fire and rescue departments.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st, said today that the money will go for hiring 12 firefighters and staffing the Heavy Rescue Unit. The money will pay for those positions for two years, Pingree said.

“The City of Portland has had to make some devastating cuts during the economic downturn and I’m glad they will be able to recoup some of the losses. These are very important jobs for the community,” Pingree said in a statement.

Union head Brooks and Fire Chief LaMontagne agreed that it will be important to find ways to pay for those added men and the Heavy Rescue Unit when the two years is up and the federal grant has been spent.

“Both the union and management agree on the importance of this vehicle and jointly exploring” how to keep funding those 12 positions and operation of the rescue vehicle, LaMontagne said.

“This is an opportunity for labor and management to get together and try to be creative,” Brooks agreed. “The key is can we keep it going after those two years. Losing it for two years, we felt that. It’s a loss.”

The new firefighters will be hired this summer and should be on duty by December, LaMontagne said.