PAWTUCKET, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced over $1.65 million in federal funds to recruit more volunteer firefighters statewide and help fire departments in Pawtucket and Bristol purchase essential pieces of firefighting equipment.
The Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation (RIAFCF) is being awarded $974,200 in federal funds through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program to recruit and train volunteer firefighters, and the Pawtucket and Bristol Fire Departments will receive a total of $678,814 through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program to upgrade their Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) systems.
“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. I salute the fire chiefs and local officials who worked hard to win these merit-based grants,” said Reed.
“Every day, Rhode Island firefighters put their lives on the line to protect the state’s families and keep our residents safe,” said Whitehouse. “I’m very pleased to announce these grants, which will be used to train and equip firefighters in Pawtucket and Bristol, and I congratulate Mayor Grebien and Chief Sisson in Pawtucket, and Town Administrator Texiera and Chief Martin in Bristol on their successful applications.”
“We are so fortunate for the many selfless Rhode Islanders who commit themselves to critical roles in our communities as volunteer firefighters,” said Langevin. “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.”
“I am pleased to join my colleagues in announcing these critical resources will help first responders more effectively serve the men and women of Rhode Island’s First District,” said Cicilline. “I will continue fighting in Washington to ensure that our cities and towns continue to receive the federal funding necessary to provide effective services for families across our state.”
“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,” continued McLaughlin. “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.”
A RIAFC study found that Rhode Island’s volunteer firefighter force is below the National Fire Protection Association recommended levels. The $974,200 SAFER grant awarded to the foundation will be used to help increase retention and recruit volunteer firefighters by creating two new training programs. The Fire Service Leader Retention and Recruitment Training program will educate fire service leaders on recruitment strategies through workshops modeled after successful programs in Florida and California. The Training Scholarship Program will help ease the financial burden to new volunteer firefighters by reimbursing them for training expenses, funding entry-level physicals and immunizations, and providing turnout equipment and gear. This program will be promoted through a coordinated marketing campaign.
The Pawtucket Fire Department’s $528,038 AFG grant will be used to help purchase 75 new SCBA units. The need to replace its SCBA units and fill station ranked among the highest concerns in an internal risk assessment conducted by the department. In 2011 the department responded to over 300 incidents requiring the use of SCBAs.
The Bristol Fire Department’s $150,776 AFG grant will be used to purchase 24 new SCBA units each equipped with firefighter location systems to help emergency responders track and locate injured or fallen firefighters. The new SCBA units will replace the current breathing apparatus equipment, which were purchased in 1998 and are experiencing end of life electronic failures.
SAFER and AFG are competitive grant programs that 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.