Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand announced that the Newark Valley Fire District will receive a grant totaling $119,462 in Round 13 of the FY12 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program. AFG awards are administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and are designed to help firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards. The Newark Valley Fire District will use this funding to update their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) equipment to newer, lighter models.
Senators Schumer and Gillibrand appealed personally to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate. In their letters, the Senators urged the agency to give full consideration to the requests of the Newark Valley Fire District to upgrade their SCBA’s, a critical need for their firefighters.
“With this funding, Newark Valley firefighters can focus on their important work without fear for their own safety,” said Senator Schumer. “This investment for new SCBA equipment will help ensure that our local heroes can continue their life-saving work and will enable them to respond as effectively and safely as possible.”
“This is an important investment for the Newark Valley Fire District,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It’s our responsibility to ensure that our first responders have the most up-to-date equipment. These new SCBA’s will help our firefighters respond to emergencies more efficiently and effectively, and help save more lives.”
Newark Valley Fire District Commissioner Ken Schneider said, “The grant is going to be used for Self-Contained-Breathing-Apparatus, to replace our present 16-year-old SCBAs. This will provide a higher level of safety to our firefighters, enabling them to more safely protect the community of 4,446 people which we serve.”
Located in Tioga County, the Newark Valley Fire District is supported by a staff of 25 firefighters who serve the community of nearly 4,500 people. The Newark Valley Fire District will use the federal funding to purchase new SCBAs which will replace obsolete 16-year-old units.
Schumer was an original sponsor of the legislation that led to the creation of this funding program for local governments and fire departments to help defray the rising costs of equipment and fire prevention. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program funds can go towards training, equipment, personal protective equipment, wellness and fitness, and modifications to fire stations and facilities.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program assists local fire departments in programs and activities to improve the effectiveness of firefighting operations through specialized emergency training for response to situations like terrorist attacks; enhancement of emergency medical services programs; development of health and safety initiatives; establishment of fire education and prevention programs; creation of wellness and fitness programs; and equipment and facility upgrades.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grants are administered by the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the Department’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 accessed at http://www.firegrantsupport.com/ .
A copy of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is attached. A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter appears below:
January 24, 2013
The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Nebraska Avenue Center, NW
Washington, D.C. 20528
I am pleased to write in support for the Newark Valley Fire Department’s request for funding under the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. Such funding will enable the Newark Valley Fire Department to purchase new Self- Containing Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).
This grant is of paramount importance to the Fire Department as it is currently operating with SCBAs dating all the way back to 1997. This is particularly worrisome considering Newark SCBAs had a major failure in 2011, which forced two firefighters to exit a burning building. Two more failures in 2013 also caused premature exits from fires. If these men and women cannot be assured of their own safety, they cannot effectively keep their community safe.
In addition to safety concerns, the unreliable equipment poses a problem in retaining current volunteer firefighters and recruiting new ones. The Newark Valley Fire Department has had and will continue to have problems with dwindling numbers if it cannot ensure safety in the field. These issues are only compounded by this week’s passing of Newark Valley firefighter, Matthew Porcari. Though his death was unrelated to equipment, it does exacerbate safety concerns for potential and current volunteers in such a small community.
As a group who voluntarily safeguards their community, it is unacceptable that they should be concerned with equipment failing while they protect others. Based on the continued success of the Newark Valley Fire Department and the surrounding community, I sincerely hope this application for funding meets with your approval.
Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
Charles E. Schumer