The Office of the State Fire Marshal awarded much needed funds to 90 fire departments in Kansas through the Kansas Firefighter Recruitment and Safety Grant Program, totaling $1.3 million. The OSFM made this grant possible through its budget passed by the State Legislature and signed by Governor Laura Kelly. This year, an additional $1.2 million was made available to OSFM for this grant by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Along with $100,000 provided through our budget, the 2023 KFRSG had a total of $1.3 million to disburse.
This year, over $2.4 million was requested by 98 volunteer/part-time fire departments in Kansas for safety gear, washer/extractor machines and junior firefighter programs. Departments received close to $1.2 million to be used for safety gear, $106,000 for 20 washer/extractor machines, and $1,200 for the junior firefighter programs. Due to the high number of requests, OSFM will be requesting the 2023 Legislature continue funding this important grant.
“Every year, we see an increase in requests for this grant,” Doug Jorgensen, State Fire Marshal, said. “This year was unique, in that, we had the extra dollars from ARPA. The funding will go a long way in providing these smaller, but vital departments with the gear and equipment they need to continue keeping their communities safe.”
Volunteer and part-time fire departments face recruitment and retention challenges because they do not have the funding to provide safety equipment. Without new equipment provided by the recruiting fire department, potential volunteers are faced with not only donating their time but also providing their own safety gear, sharing gear with others, or doing without. There is also a proven increase in cancer diagnoses for firefighters, which can be caused by prolonged exposure to carcinogens, particulates, and biohazards. The proper gear, regular cleaning of that gear and equipment, along with preventative healthcare is crucial for a firefighter’s health and well-being.