Fire District 1 eligible for $500k in grant money
By Dan Cooper
SOUTH HADLEY- Although initially rejected for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Response (SAFER) Grant, Fire District 1 is now eligible to accept the grant, Prudential Committee chair Ed Wall revealed at their June 29 meeting.
Wall said he received a call last Friday that South Hadley Fire District 1 is now eligible for up to $500,000 in SAFER grant money.
“There’s money that needs to be dump in the new fiscal year, so the government is reaching out to rejected communities,” Wall explained. “I said we’ll consider taking it. We have about 90 days to reject the money.”
Wall said the program would require the hiring of four new firefighters/paramedics as per the grant guidelines.
“This puts any plans we had to hire on hold for the time being while we look into if this grant will work for us,” he said, adding that the SAFER Grant, which is a federal program, has a 90-day recruitment period and a 90-day hiring period.
Wall said if the grant were accepted, there would be a search sent out to try and find four firefighters for the program.
“We’ll definitely have a more extensive search for paramedics than we did before,” Wall said, adding that the last search yielded less than 50 applicants.
According to Wall, the two fire department members currently in classes for EMT training could be considered part of the new hires needed for the test.
“So it’s critical they try and pass the test,” he said.
Wall said more time is needed to look at the details of the grant before a formal acceptance is made.
“Our first check wouldn’t come until October or so, so there’s not too much time to decide if this will be a good investment or not,” he said. “Until a decision is made on this SAFER Grant, all actions toward hiring new paramedics is tabled.”
He also said this would only affect District 1 and has nothing to do with District 2, who also applied for a SAFER Grant.
The SAFER Grant was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained, “front-line” firefighters available in their communities, according to the grant’s website.
SAFER funds should assist local fire departments to increase their staffing and deployment capabilities in order to respond to emergencies whenever they may occur. As a result of the enhanced staffing, response times should be sufficiently reduced with an appropriate number of personnel assembled at the incident scene.
The website says that a faster, safer and more efficient incident scene will be established and communities will have more adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards.
The Prudential Committee also approved $45,000 for the purchase of the district’s own ambulance and equipment, $15,000 for an ambulance computer reserve fund, and $8,000 to update the station’s computer system, with an additional $8,000 for a district website account.