WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A department that covers five towns and some other prime real estate just outside New York City has been given a federal grant to hire dozens of new firefighters.

Firefighters from North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue are often among the first on the scene for incidents at the Lincoln Tunnel, commuter train and Amtrak tunnels and the New Jersey Turnpike.

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WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports

“The New York Times has called this area the most dangerous two miles in the country,” Rep. Albio Sires told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman, at a news conference Monday.

“When I tell people in Washington that I live in a community that is one square mile and has got 50,000 people, they look at me like I have two heads,” Rep. Sires added.

The department has lost more than 60 firefighters in the past few years, but $5.5 million grant will pay for 32 new full-time firefighters.

Chief Frank Montane said this federal grant will have a big impact.

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“We go from three men on an apparatus to four increases our firefighting capability by 50 percent,” Montane said. “This allows us to get back to that standard, give us the strength that we need.”

Also at the news conference, Sen. Robert Menendez said the timing of this announcement on the eve on the September 11 anniversary is fitting.

“They are the first line of defense, they are the ones that we call upon,” Sen. Menendez said. “It was not the federal government who came and responded to the challenges and the tragedy at the World Trade Center.”

In addition to helping the fire department add to its force, Sen. Menendez said this demonstrates government working effectively.

“This is a perfect example of federal and local governmental partnership,” Sen. Menendez said.

North Hudson Regional crews were the first to respond to the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ when a US Airways plane made a splash landing in the Hudson River in January 2009.

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