GARY, Ind. (CBS) — Their job is saving lives, but more than two dozen Gary firefighters had to focus on rescuing their own families from ruin over the last six months.

They were laid off. But now there’s hope. A $3.8 million federal grant is bringing the furloughed first-responders back.

CBS 2’s Pamela Jones hung out with a crew that can’t wait for the return of their comrades.

They suit up in seconds, running to save residents in trouble when seconds count. Soon, Gary firefighters will have more help on the street. Federal grant dollars will bring back more than 30 who were laid off for the last 6 months. 

Phil Haiser is one of them.

“It was devastating.  I can remember the first night away.  I have a portable (police scanner) and I still would listen,” said Haiser.

He, his wife and two young daughters struggled to survive on income from Haiser’s part-time job.

“I had a lot of people praying for us and saying it was our intended purpose to be back and serve that city,” Haiser said.

Back in January, Haiser and others watched as fellow firefighter Jason Pickering collected donations in a boot to support his family of six.

Union president Raynard Robinson says the layoffs forced Gary to call for neighboring cities to help cover emergencies during the furloughs.

“I can’t wait to be back with them,” Haiser said.  “I just can’t wait to join them back serving that city so we could all be back together like the brotherhood that’s supposed to be on the fire department.”

The laid-off firefighters could get to go back to work as early as the end of June. But the funding only covers those firefighters’ salaries for two years. 

After that, the city of Gary would have to reapply for the grant.