Grants proving hard to come by for fire departments in the valley
SILT, Colo. The Glenwood Springs Fire Department isn’t the only local agency not to receive a federal grant for adding additional firefighters to its department. The Burning Mountains Fire Protection District also applied for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant this year and was informed earlier this month that it had been turned down.According to Fire Chief Brit McLin, the district had applied for the grant to assist in hiring three full-time, paid firefighters who could work during the day during the regular work week.”We’re not at the panic level today, but on any given day in the summer, we will have a delayed response time because (volunteers) are at work,” McLin said. The purpose of the SAFER grant is to help fire departments increase the number of front-line firefighters. The five-year grant program helps to pay the salaries of newly hired firefighters and the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. It is administered under the federal Department of Homeland Security. The goal of the grant is to ensure that fire departments ultimately attain 24-hour staffing and provide adequate fire protection to their communities.Glenwood Springs had also applied for the grant in order to add three more firefighters to its staff and to improve its Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating.Glenwood Springs City Manager Jeff Hecksel reportedly said he was surprised the grant request was turned down as the city had never received a SAFER grant in the past.McLin was also puzzled as to why his district was turned down and said the criterion to receive the grant remains something of a mystery. “We don’t really know what it is at this time,” he said. “We applied last year and were turned down as well.”The Burning Mountains Fire Protection District was seeking approximately $700,000 to help pay for three full-time firefighters over a 5-year period, including training and benefits.McLin and an administrative assistant are currently the only full-time paid staff on the Burning Mountains Fire Protection District. The district has about 45 volunteers.”If we had 60 (volunteers) I would be the happiest man in the world,” McLin said. “But these people are giving a tremendous amount to their communities.”The Rifle Fire Protection District has never sought a SAFER grant, but was the recipient of an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) for 2004, which is also administered under the Department of Homeland Security.The department received about $75,000, which it used for self-contained breathing equipment – also known as “air packs” – for its personnel, said Rifle Fire Chief Mike Morgan.”We applied for the AFG grant every year and were denied before we finally got it,” Morgan said. “These grants are very competitive and very difficult because there are departments in this country that have nothing.”Morgan said he did not apply for a SAFER grant.”One of the reasons we haven’t applied is because as a taxpayer and a firefighter, I can look around and see (other) people who really need it. And I think Glenwood Springs is a poster child for it.”The Glenwood Springs Fire Department responds to about 1,500 calls per year. The Rifle Fire Protection District responds to around 1,300 and the Burning Mountains Fire Protection District about 350 calls per year.Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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