NEW: RI Fire Departments Will Receive $1.65 million
Friday, January 18, 2013
In a joint release issued by the four members of Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation, it was announced that the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation (RIAFCF) will receive $974,200 in federal funds through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program to recruit and train volunteer firefighters.
In addition, the Pawtucket and Bristol Fire Departments will receive a total of $678,814 through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.
“This federal funding will help ensure our firefighters have the proper equipment and support they need and that local fire departments are well trained and staffed,” Senator Jack Reed said. “I salute the fire chiefs and local officials who worked hard to win these merit-based grants.”
“We are so fortunate for the many selfless Rhode Islanders who commit themselves to critical roles in our communities as volunteer firefighters,” Representative Jim Langevin added. “It is incumbent upon us to make sure they have the resources they need for their service and this grant program is a vital part of that effort.”
According to a study by RIAFC, Rhode Island currently has a volunteer firefighter force that is below levels recommended by the National Fire Protection Association.
The $974K grant is expected to create a pair of new programs to help increase retention and recruit volunteers.
First, under a plan called the Fire Service Leader Retention and Recruitment Training program, leaders from RI Fire Departments will be educated on recruitment strategies through a number of workshops that have been modeled after successful programs in Florida and California.
In addition, a training scholarship program will reimburse volunteer firefighters for training expenses, fund entry-level physicals and immunizations and provide turnout equipment and gear in an effort to ease the financial burden to new volunteers.
“Fire chiefs across Rhode Island, through the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs, have taken a variety of measures over the years to help departments recruit and retain volunteer firefighters, most recently by forming the
RIAFC Foundation, whose mission is to serve the community and support the fire service,” said RIAFC Foundation President, Chief Timothy McLaughlin, Johnston Fire Department . “But given the current challenges of Rhode Island’s volunteer fire service, we would not be able to take these recruitment and retention efforts to the next level without this grant.”
“Volunteer firefighters protect 60 percent of the land area of our state, and according to the fire marshal’s office, volunteer/combination departments responded to 11,550 calls in 2011,” McLaughlin added. “This grant will allow us to help the departments recruit new volunteers and retain the current firefighters, an absolute must if we don’t want citizens, structures and firefighters at risk.”
The grants for Pawtucket and Bristol will be used by the departments to upgrade their Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) systems.
Pawtucket will receive $528,038, which will help purchase 75 new SCBA units. Bristol, meanwhile, will receive $150,776 to purchase 24 new units.
The SAFER and AFG grants are are administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. To date, Rhode Island has received nearly $6.5 million in SAFER and AFG grants in fiscal year 2012.