September 05, 2018

Schumer, Gillibrand, Maloney Announce Nearly $1.5 Million In Funding For Newburgh Fire Department; Federal Reps Say Funding Will Restaff Newburgh Fire Department

Schumer, Gillibrand, Maloney: FEMA SAFER Funding Will Be Used To Hire 9 Critical Firefighters

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney today announced $1,497,886 in federal funding for the City of Newburgh Fire Department (NFD) in Orange County. The money was allocated through the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program. The funding will allow the City of Newburgh Fire Department to hire 9 firefighters. The members of Congress explained that the previous rounds of SAFER funding have been a vital lifeline for NFD, allowing them to keep on firefighters, sustain and enhance their service, and better serve the community, and praised FEMA for providing the NFD with this critical funding for a third consecutive time. Schumer, Gillibrand, and Maloney wrote to DHS earlier this year to support NFD’s SAFER grant funding application.

“Victory for Newburgh! I have seen firsthand during the Verla fire and countless other times the work that Newburgh firefighters do, the lives they have saved, and the beacon of hope and security they bring to the City of Newburgh and the surrounding communities,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I called FEMA Director Brock Long directly and fought so hard to ensure that the Newburgh Fire Department received critical funding through the SAFER program this year for a third consecutive time. The Newburgh Fire Department plays an absolutely essential role in their community – they need these firefighters back on the job ASAP – and I’ll always fight tooth and nail to ensure that they are fully staffed and equipped to handle any emergency.”

“The City of Newburgh’s firefighters defend and protect the city and surrounding communities, and we need to do everything possible to make sure that they have the staffing level necessary to stay safe and be prepared to respond to emergencies,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am excited to announce this SAFER grant for the Newburgh Fire Department. Our first responders risk their lives to protect us, and I was proud to fight for this funding to help make sure the Newburgh Fire Department has the support it needs.”

“This is a huge win. We’ve been all over FEMA for months to get this funding, and I couldn’t be happier that they’ve done the right thing here – it’s incredibly rare to get a third SAFER investment, but Newburgh clearly has demonstrated its need given the unique situation the department is in,” said U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. “Everyone knows you need a full staff of firefighters to protect your city – but especially here in Newburgh where our guys are out responding to other emergencies in the area – like the Verla fire – you need a right-sized staff to protect the city and its neighbors. People in Newburgh can sleep more soundly knowing that their fire department will again have the resources it needs to quickly and efficiently respond to emergencies.”

Schumer, Gillibrand, and Maloney said that Newburgh’s most recent SAFER grant expired on July 31, 2018. The officials explained that even though their two previous SAFER grants allowed the department to hire 12 firefighters, the city’s SAFER application for this cycle only requested funding to pay for nine of their salaries, after the City Council voted to keep three firefighters on their payroll. The Newburgh Fire Department provides fire and emergency response services to the City of Newburgh and other mutual aid response areas in Orange County. They respond to situations at critical infrastructure in the nearby region, including the CSX railroad, Newburgh Beacon Ferry and Bridge, Stewart International Airport, the Hudson River, and the Petroleum Port of Newburgh. With the renewal of this vital SAFER funding, the Newburgh Fire Department will be able to fend off potential layoffs, protecting the safety of Newburgh’s citizens and firefighters.

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER), established by FEMA within the Department of Homeland Security, was created to provide funding directly to fire department and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities. The goal of SAFER is to enhance the local fire departments’ abilities to comply with staffing, response, and operation standards established by the National Fire Protection Association and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. More information can be found here. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency, in cooperation with the DHS’s United States Fire Administration. The grants are awarded on a competitive basis to the applicants that most closely address the program’s priorities and demonstrate financial need. More information on the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program can be found here.

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

Dear Secretary Nielsen:

I am pleased to write in strong support of the application submitted by the City of Newburgh Fire Department (NFD) for funding through the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grants (application EMW-2017-FH-00234). Such funding will enable NFD to hire nine essential full time firefighters and serve their severely financially-challenged city. 

Located on the Hudson River in Orange County, New York, the City of Newburgh is an impoverished urban area with a diminished industrial base, a significant crime rate, and deteriorating infrastructure. Over the years, Newburgh has been home to seven firehouses, more than 80 firefighters and ran four engines, two ladder trucks and one foam truck. Yet, as a result of the City’s dwindling economy, they were forced to consolidate firehouses, remove apparatus and let go dozens of firefighters, leaving them with only fifty-five firefighters and two firehouses. 

Unfortunately, the demand for firefighters has not matched this sharp rate of decline in resources throughout the years. These consolidations and cutbacks have negatively impacted NFD’s response times and most importantly, the health, safety, and quality of life for their members and the public they serve. Fortunately, the past two rounds of SAFER funding have been a vital lifeline for NFD, allowing them to keep on firefighters, sustain and enhance their service, and better serve their community.

The City of Newburgh’s unique position on the banks of the Hudson River adds additional responsibilities to an already struggling department. NFD’s jurisdiction contains critical infrastructure of local, statewide, and regional significance. NFD takes the lead in emergency response to many incidents on the CSX railroad, the Petroleum Port of Newburgh, Stewart International Airport, Newburgh-Beacon Ferry, Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, and the Hudson River. Their Tier 2 and Tier 3 facilities include West Point Military Academy and George Washington’s Headquarters.

In addition to their own responsibilities, NFD is on call for the Coast Guard, whose base is two hours away, to assist in protecting the Hudson shores as well as water emergencies. In addition to substantial recreational traffic, the Hudson River is also a channel for commercial transportation including a freight rail line that borders the shoreline, a passenger ferry that transports commuters across the river, significant barge and oil tanker traffic, and the Newburgh Beacon Bridge, which spans the Hudson carrying Interstate Route 84. The proliferation of Bakken oil has increased the community’s concern of a potential catastrophic incident as millions of gallons of light crude oil are transported by the river and rail each week through their district. All first-responders are keenly aware of the Lac Megantic rail derailment and oil fire disaster, which caused a catastrophic fire and heavy loss of life, and want to make sure we are prepared to deal with like challenges in New York.

This past year in a neighboring town, NFD was the largest and most powerful department to respond to one of the biggest factory explosions the area has ever seen. NFD was also first on the scene when a CSX train derailed onto a major road into oncoming traffic and when a man fell through the ice of the Hudson River and began to drown. These incidents—just a few of many—exemplify why it is so crucial that the Newburgh Fire Department be adequately staffed.

Therefore, I write this letter not only as their senator, but also as an ardent advocate. I have seen firsthand the work the Newburgh firefighters do, the lives they have saved, and the beacon of hope and security they bring to the disadvantaged City of Newburgh and the surrounding communities. I deeply fear that losing these nine firefighters would directly result in an increase of overwhelming emergencies, lives lost, and far-reaching, catastrophic impacts outside of the firehouse walls.

Due to the depletion of their previous SAFER funds, layoffs will take place on July 31, 2018, and therefore the timing of any future SAFER grants is extremely important. Therefore, I ask that, should FEMA award a grant to Newburgh, that you do so after July 31. 

Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my Grants Coordinator in Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.

A copy of Gillibrand’s letter to FEMA appears below:

Dear Administrator Long,

I write in support of the application submitted by the Newburgh Fire Department for funding from the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This funding will allow the Fire Department to retain its firefighters and staff in order to ensure the City’s safety.

The Newburgh Fire Department provides fire and emergency response services to the City of Newburgh and other mutual aid response areas in Orange County, including responding to situations at critical infrastructure in the immediate region. In 2014 and 2016, the Department was awarded a SAFER grant, enabling it retain 12 firefighters and bolstering EMS and firefighter capabilities and efficiency. However, this funding is close to expiring. Without the renewal of SAFER funding, the Newburgh Fire Department risks 12 layoffs, jeopardizing the safety of Newburgh’s citizens and firefighters.

The requested funding for the Newburgh Fire Department will be used to avoid layoffs and keep its emergency response programs fully staffed. With paramedic units located at Fire Department headquarters rather than another location, the City is able to meet the Advanced Life Support required response time for 100% of the emergency calls within the City. As an economically distressed area, past funding has allowed the Newburgh Fire Department to buy equipment and ensure adequate staffing levels without the use of additional tax dollars. The renewal of funding will allow the Department to have the necessary number of firefighters to continue its service to the City and surrounding area with a high degree of effectiveness and efficiency.

 I ask that you please give this application your full consideration. If you have any questions, or desire further information, please do not hesitate to contact my staff member, Laura Driscoll, at (202) 224-6500.

A copy of Maloney’s letter to FEMA appears below:

I write in support of the application submitted by the City of Newburgh Fire Department (NFD) to the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.

The City of Newburgh historically had seven firehouses and more than 80 firefighters. Today, that number has dropped to 68 brave members tasked with responding to an average of 30,000 calls-for-service per year. This decrease has caused a strain in resources and man-power, resulting in a public safety risk for City residents and firefighters alike. Since 2013 funding, the NFD has been able to successfully meet the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and OSHA standards while taking on more responsibility in sustainable planning. However, while the City has been able to mobilize support and resources, there remain substantial gaps threatening the stability of the Department’s staffing capacity due to unforeseen water and sewer issues plaguing residential and commercial communities. As such, the NFD stands to revert to pre-2013 operational capacity, which would increase the burden and risk to the Department and the community it bravely serves. 

Award of this application will ensure that the Department is adequately staffed and capable of carrying out its many duties while remaining in compliance with NFPA standards. Your assistance will provide the Department with the ability to ensure that crew strengths of at least 13 are consistently maintained. In so doing, your investment will allow for the Newburgh Fire Department to comply with the staffing standards of NFPA 1710. The requested funding will additionally afford the NFD the opportunity to perform fire prevention inspections, and other related functions. Unfortunately, without your assistance, Newburgh anticipates that response times and other related risks will increase significantly, resulting in the ripple effects of weakened operational capacity being felt throughout the City for years to come. For these reasons, your assistance is critical to the Department and the City of Newburgh.

Therefore, I ask that you give your full and fair consideration to this request. Thank you in advance for your time and careful consideration of this request as both are greatly appreciated.