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Fort Drum Firefighters Are Essential Fed Employees – Which The Army Is Responsible For Amply Funding In Army HQ Budget – But Year After Year Shortfalls Have Left Them Unable To Repair Or Replace Damaged Equipment, And Even Having To Borrow From Other Local Departments Due To Being Unable To Purchase New Gear 

Schumer Is Calling On Army HQ To Immediately Reverse This Trend And Get Fort Drum First Responders The Financial Support They Need To Continue To Keep Fort Drum’s 15,000+ Servicemembers, Families, And Surrounding North Country Community Safe

Schumer: Not Funding Fort Drum Firefighters Is A Fire The Army Can Put Out, They Need To Increase Support Of Our Firefighters To Keep Our Military Families And North Country Safe

Standing with Fort Drum firefighters and members of IAFF Local F-105, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a major push to increase funding for the Fort Drum Fire Department after years of receiving significantly lower annual budgets from Army HQ. Schumer explained that, as a federal fire department serving Fort Drum and the North Country, the Fort Drum Fire Department uniquely depends on federal funding through U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) for its yearly budget, creating a different funding structure than other nearby local fire professional and volunteer departments.

Schumer said for years Fort Drum firefighters have received significantly less than they requested, most recently only receiving 25% of its requested funding from IMCOM, leaving the department unable to purchase replacements or fund repairs to critical equipment like protective gear, thermal imaging cameras, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinders, firehoses, radios, flashlights and more. The senator personally wrote the Secretary of the Army to highlight this issue, and is launching an all-out effort to deliver the increased support they need to ensure this issue does not persist.

"The heroic men and women of the Fort Drum Fire Department and IAFF Local F-105 are always first to respond to emergencies, but year after year of having their budget requests slashed is making it harder for them to get the equipment they need to keep themselves, our soldiers, military families, and communities across the North Country safe. When I found out earlier this year these firefighters were only getting a fraction of the support they needed from Army HQ, I promised I would stand in this fight alongside them,” said Senator Schumer. “Today I am sounding the alarm to say enough is enough and to deliver them the support our Fort Drum firefighters deserve. Fort Drum firefighters protect our service members who put their lives on the line for this country and they deserve the full financial security and support to ensure they can keep themselves and our community safe.”

Schumer personally wrote the Secretary of the Army to fix this oversight and deliver the funding Fort Drum needs so it can finally replace its outdated equipment and continue its lifesaving work for the 15,000+ service members and their families and the 3,700 civilian personnel who work at Fort Drum. Schumer explained this recent fiscal year, the Fort Drum Fire Department had requested approximately $540,000 for its annual non-pay budget, but only received $138,200, ~25% of the funding it asked for. Since 2021, only 57% of funding has been delivered on average, which the firefighters say is far below the funding level the department needs to serve the Fort Drum community. Fort Drum firefighters not only serve the base, but also routinely assist local communities in emergencies. This year alone the Fort Drum Fire & Emergency Services has responded to 28 calls for mutual aid and in fiscal year 2023 they assisted in over 80 calls for mutual aid.


"Thank you Senator Schumer for stepping up and taking action to ensure the Fort Drum Fire Department is properly funded. In recent years, our budget has been progressively cut, bringing the department to its knees when it comes to equipment, apparatuses and training,” said IAFF Local F-105 President Greg Geyer. “In view of the department’s large attrition rate, increased funding is absolutely essential to maintaining mission ready equipment and training up our young department while sustaining the capabilities IMCOM requires us to provide soldiers, their families, and the community. On behalf of our IAFF union members, Fort Drum firefighters, and first responders across the North Country, I echo Senator Schumer’s push here today and extend him our deepest appreciation for fighting to protect our personnel and keep our community safe.”

The senator said he is personally calling on the Army to rectify these budget cuts and pushing for the Fort Drum Fire Department to receive its full budget requirement so firefighters can upgrade, repair, or replace critical equipment and resources, such as PPE, SCBA cylinders, thermal imaging cameras, firehoses, radios, and flashlights. He is also fighting for other additional investments the department needs like a new, vital rescue truck. Schumer said he is pushing the Army to find a long-term solution so the base and other federal firefighters do not deal with this issue again.

This is not the first time Schumer has fought on behalf of federal firefighters to get the funding they deserved from the Army. Last year, Schumer joined West Point firefighters at the United States Military Academy after they had experienced a similar issue. In response to Schumer’s calls, the Army reversed course to fully fund the West Point Fire Department delivering millions in overdue funding as well as long delayed equipment, that was later critical to rescues the fire department made during a flooding disaster in the area.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth on behalf of the Fort Drum firefighters appears below:

Dear Secretary Wormuth:

I write to request your immediate attention and assistance to ensure the Fort Drum Fire Department receives its full funding requirement and is sufficiently equipped with emergency response apparatus the firefighters need to protect the Fort Drum community. Over the past four fiscal years (FY), several of Fort Drum Fire Department’s emergency response equipment have failed inspection, not received funding, and have been unable to be repaired or replaced, including thermal imaging cameras, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinders, personal protective equipment (PPE) and structural gear, firehoses, and other critical equipment to keep our firefighters and Fort Drum community safe.

In FY24, Fort Drum requested $542,200 for fire and emergency services in its Management Decision Package (MDEP) for fire and emergency services, which was validated by US Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM). However, due to non-pay shortfalls across the entire command, Fort Drum only received $138,200—25% of its request. This is far below the funding level the fire department needs to protect the Fort Drum community and is the latest in a long series of budget cuts imposed on them. From FY2021 to FY2024, Fort Drum Fire Department on average has received 57% of its validated funding requirement. This trend of budget cuts forces the firefighters to ration their resources and prioritize their needs, making them decide which apparatus to replace and which to go without until the next fiscal year. Recently, Fort Drum firefighters have resorted to borrowing basic PPE, such as vests, from other emergency services on base due to the poor condition of their current stockpile.

In addition, Fort Drum Fire Department does not have the emergency response vehicles required to fulfill its mission with minimal risk to personnel or the community. Fort Drum is currently experiencing a shortage of a rescue truck, ladder truck, and crash truck, the absence of which have forced the department to rely on equipment from neighboring communities. Our Fort Drum firefighters should not face this level of uncertainty in their mission to keep our servicemembers, their families, and communities safe. Furthermore, it is my understanding that Fort Drum Fire Department fails to meet the requirements for a ladder truck, as the installation does not have at least five buildings that are more than four stories tall and lack sprinkler systems. However, their current fleet of emergency response vehicles do not have the proper equipment to reach the fourth story of their buildings, placing firefighters at a tactical disadvantage and proliferating the risks to both responder and occupant safety during an emergency.

Altogether, these issues have put a serious strain on Fort Drum’s emergency services, which protect the nearly 15,000 active duty military personnel and their family members. It is imperative that we provide our firefighters and first responders with the resources they need to protect the servicemembers who protect our nation.

As I mentioned, Fort Drum requested $542,200 for fire and emergency services in its MDEP for FY24. This funding will be essential in boosting firefighter safety and mission success, and conducting long overdue equipment repairs and replacements. Considering the challenges imposed by funding shortfalls in FY21-FY24 and the current state of Fort Drum Fire Department’s equipment, I urge you to support and fully execute Fort Drum’s validated FY24 MDEP funding request. This funding will be essential in boosting firefighter safety and mission success, and conducting equipment repairs and replacements that have compiled due to these previous years of budget shortfalls.

I also respectfully ask that you expedite the delivery of a new rescue truck for the Fort Drum Fire Department, and thoroughly review and—if deemed appropriate—modify the existing Army policy that sets the requirements for fire departments to qualify for ladder trucks. If modifying the policy is not possible, I urge you to consider Fort Drum for an exemption to the policy so that its fire department can be authorized to receive a ladder track.

I am grateful that you have previously worked with me on similar requests that were experienced by our West Point firefighters, but these problems cannot continue to persist across fire departments at other US Army garrisons. I also strongly urge you to thoroughly evaluate current budget procedures and how the Army can avoid this issue moving forward.

Thank you for your consideration of this request and your commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our servicemembers. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions.