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9 Vol. Fire Departments Serving Over 50,000 Residents Have Trained Students To Become Volunteer Firefighters At Baker High School For The Past Three Years, But If Fed Funding Dries Up Then Program Will Have To Disband

With Need To Replace Retiring Firefighters Growing, Schumer Calls On Department of Homeland Security To Keep Funding Lifeline Going So Classes Can Continue & CNY Firefighter Ranks Don’t Dwindle

Schumer to Feds: Don’t Douse This Life-Saving Program


Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Department of Homeland Security to provide funding to save a volunteer firefighter training program that is at risk of ending without the assistance of federal funds. Since 2008, a coalition of nine local volunteer fire departments has received FEMA funding to run a training program at Baker High School. The program has helped ensure there are sufficient volunteer firefighters at these departments that serve a combined 50,000 residents and responded to 3,400 calls last year. As volunteer firefighter retirements have risen in the last several years, this program has helped fill the gap and ensure that fire departments are sufficiently staffed in the event of a fire or EMS call. Without continued federal funds, the program would be forced to end, depleting the local stock of volunteer firefighters and putting public safety at risk. Schumer today called on the Department of Homeland Security Department to grant the coalition’s request for $119,000 in funding to continue the program


“The federal government should not douse a program that saves lives in Central New York,” said Schumer. “These federal funds prepare students in the Baldwinsville School District to follow their dream: to perform the lifesaving work of first responders and fill the boots of an alarmingly high rate of veteran volunteer firefighters who retired in recent years. FEMA should renew this grant that allows the training program at Baker High School to continue to fuel its students’ burning desire to become well-trained volunteer firefighters. FEMA’s refusal to fund this training program would extinguish a training program that prepares new recruits for nine Central New York fire departments. Not only would these departments face a talent deficit if this vital program is extinguished, but the safety of 50,000 New Yorkers that these departments serve could be jeopardized as fewer young adults will have the requisite training to fill the boots of retiring volunteers.”


Schumer was joined by firefighters from a coalition of nine fire departments in Onondaga and Oswego Counties. The coalition is applying for the federal grant as a consolidated consortium. The Belgium Springs Fire District spearheads grant applications on the coalition’s behalf and dispenses funds to the other departments. In 2008, the coalition secured a recruitment SAFER grant for $134,000. Now that those funds have become extinguished, the coalition has reapplied for the same grant this year. Currently, the coalition’s grant application is under peer review and FEMA will wait four to six weeks before it decides whether to award the first FY2011 SAFER grant. 


Schumer was also joined by the lead instructor of the fire and EMS elective course at Baker High School, Paul Becker. Schumer’s desire to take the lead in pushing FEMA to renew the training program’s funding was fueled, in part, after Becker told him that the program has been extremely successful in placing students in jobs within the public safety sector. Becker has emphasized that the students learn the fundamentals that are needed to become effective firefighters, from laddering to hose work to equipment maintenance.


Schumer stressed the fact that the recruitment training program at Baker High School will be discontinued if FEMA does not deliver a FY2011 SAFER grant to the nine fire departments for $119,000. The SAFER grant fully finds the fire and EMS elective course that teaches a NYS Scene Support Curriculum, CPR and other first responding techniques. This program has sparked a boon in enrollment for Onondaga Community College Firefighting programs for students who continue their first responder training and join the Central New York volunteer firefighter departments. 


Schumer emphasized the need to replace a high number of veteran firefighters who retired in recent years. In the past three years, the firefighter coalition of nine fire departments in Onondaga and Oswego has recruited 20 new firefighters. However, the coalition has lost 21 veteran firefighters to retirement since 2008. Continuing the training program is essential to ensuring that new recruits match the pace of retiring volunteers.


The coalition was formed in 2008 to facilitate training, public education about first responders and improved communication between the nine fire departments. The coalition consists of firefighters from Baldwinsville, Belgium, Cold Springs, Cody, Lakeside, Lysander, Phoenix, Plainville, Seneca River and Warners. These nine departments are comprised of over 350 volunteer firefighters who respond to over 3,400 calls every year and safeguard a population of over 50,000 residents.


The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program is intended to support the hiring of firefighters and the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. SAFER grants are administered to enhance the ability of grantees to attain and maintain 24-hour staffing and to assure that their communities have adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards.  The objective of the Hiring of Firefighters activity is to award grants directly to volunteer, combination, and career fire departments to help the departments increase the number of frontline firefighters.  The objective of the Recruitment and Retention of Volunteer Firefighters activity is to create a more favorable working environment for volunteer firefighters.  The primary focus of this activity is to enlist and/or retain volunteer firefighters who are trained in the operations of firefighting and emergency response.


A copy of Schumer’s letter to DHS Secretary Napolitano appears below:


March 26, 2012


The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano


U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Nebraska Avenue Center, NW

Washington, DC 20528


Dear Secretary:


I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by the Belgium Cold Springs Fire District for funding under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program. Such funding will enable the Belgium Cold Springs Fire District to improve and restore its staffing and deployment capabilities.


Nine fire departments in Onondaga and Oswego County formed a coalition to facilitate training, firefighter and public education, and communication among the departments. This coalition is led by the Belgium Cold Springs Fire District and includes departments from Baldwinsville, Cody, Lakeside, Lysander, Phoenix, Plainville, Seneca River, and Warners. Together, this coalition is comprised of 350 volunteers who serve a population of over 50,000 people and respond to 3,400 calls annually.


On behalf of the coalition, Belgium Cold Springs Fire District is applying for this recruitment grant to build on and continue its Fire/EMS high school elective to teach New York State Scene Support Curriculum, ASHI, CPR, and First Aid courses. The high school Fire/EMS elective exposes students to firefighting and EMS skills at an early age, when formative attitudes pertaining to volunteer work will develop. The coalition’s current elective has had considerable success, educating and training more than fifty students. In fact, as of last fall, twenty of its students have pursued careers in the public safety field. I applaud the Belgium Cold Springs Fire District and its partners for their foresight, and I sincerely urge you to continue to support this proven program.


Thank you for your consideration. If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me or my Grants Director, Grant Kerr, in my Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.




Charles E. Schumer


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