The Office of the State Fire Marshal is pleased to announce the first-ever recipients of grant funds through the Kansas Firefighter Recruitment and Safety Grant program. This program, made possible with the 2016 State of Kansas budget passed by the state Legislature and signed by Governor Sam Brownback, is aimed at assisting volunteer and part-time fire departments across the state with firefighter recruitment.
Grants issued through the Kansas Firefighter Recruitment and Safety Grant (KFRSG) program will cover the costs of safety gear for new firefighters, plus funds for the purchase of new washer-extractor machines used to clean bunker gear following a fire. Funds were also made available through this grant program for the creation of Junior Firefighter programs to attract youth volunteers into the fire service.
“We are very thankful for all of the fire departments who applied for funding through this new grant program,” said Doug Jorgensen, State Fire Marshal. “Many communities in our state depend on those voluntarily putting their lives on the line to protect their neighbors’ lives and property, and this program aims to make sure these firefighters’ health and safety are a top priority.”
The OSFM was given approval to spend up to $200,000 through this program, and 41 fire departments submitted applications totaling $814,336. Departments who applied but were either denied or only received partial funding of their request will be receiving letters of explanation.
Fire departments receiving funds for safety gear include:
- City of Russell Fire Department - $6,080
- City of Tonganoxie Fire Department - $4,914
- Cowley County Fire District #4 - $4,404
- Geary County Rural Fire District - $7,623 (includes funding for a Junior Firefighter program)
- Hackberry Township Fire Department - $12,110
- Herington Fire Department - $7,464
- Humboldt Fire Department - $10,998
- Larned Fire Department - $8,092
- Netawaka Rural Fire District #6 - $6,608 (includes funding for a Junior Firefighter program)
- Olmitz Volunteer Fire Department - $5,992
- Soldier Township Fire Department - $9,099
- Solomon Fire Department - $11,454
- South Hutchinson Volunteer Fire Department - $3,358
- Stevens County Fire Department - $15,576
- Victoria Volunteer Fire Department - $11,120
- Wakefield City Fire Department - $5,842
- Wakefield Rural Fire District #1 - $10,614
- Waterville Fire Department - $5,814
- Wilson Fire Department - $3,430
Fire departments receiving funding for a new washer/extractor machine include:
- Ellinwood Fire Department
- Florence Fire Department
- Herington Fire Department
- Waterville Fire Department
- Wellington Fire Department
The OSFM has requested bid proposals from vendors of washer/extractor machines and will use funds from the grant program to cover the costs of the machines, installation and detergent.
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.
Safety gear which can be purchased through this grant program based on a proven and demonstrated need includes bunker gear, fire helmets, fire boots, and new masks for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) units for both current and new department members.
It is vital to the health of firefighters to properly clean bunker gear following a fire to prevent the transfer of carcinogens, particulates and biohazards to firefighters, and those they serve. Further, as more and more particles attach to protective gear and chemicals remain on clothing, that gear gradually loses its effectiveness—putting firefighters at increased risk.
As the goal for the KFRSG grant program is firefighter recruitment, providing funding for the start of Explorer programs offers a great way for local fire departments to give the youth of their area an opportunity to explore both career and voluntary opportunities in the fire service. Volunteer and part-time fire departments will be able to apply for funding to cover the initiation fees for the Explorer program or the National Volunteer Fire Council National Junior Firefighter Program, plus a $100 start-up fund.