August 23, 2018

RI Delegation Announces $3.8M to Hire 28 New Firefighters & Enhance Public Safety

Cumberland, Saylesville, Smithfield, & Woonsocket receive federal grants to add new firefighters & West Warwick gets new high-tech thermal imaging camera

SMITHFIELD, RI – In an effort to help local fire departments effectively respond to emergencies and keep our communities safe, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced $3,848,921 in federal funding to help the Cumberland, Saylesville, Smithfield, and Woonsocket Fire Departments hire and train new firefighters and $6,819 to help the West Warwick Fire Department purchase a new thermal imaging camera.  

The federal funds are being awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program.  These grants are designed to enhance local fire departments’ abilities to comply with staffing, response, equipment, and operational standards established by the National Fire Protection Association.  Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation helped include a total of $700 million for AFG firefighter equipment grants ($350 million) and for SAFER firefighter hiring and retention grants ($350 million) in the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations law.

The Cumberland Fire Department will use its $303,879 SAFER grant to hire two new firefighters, and the Saylesville Fire Department will use its $143,790 SAFER grant to hire one new firefighter.  The Smithfield Fire Department will use its $1,886,122 SAFER grant to hire thirteen new firefighters.  The Woonsocket Fire Department will use its $1,535,130 SAFER grant to hire twelve new firefighters. 

It is up to each community to accept the SAFER grants, which would subsidize firefighter salaries by up to 75 percent each for the first two years, and then up to 35 percent for a third year of the program. 

The West Warwick Fire Department will use its $6,819 AFG grant to purchase a thermal imaging camera that will help it respond to fire scenes, hazardous materials responses, vehicle crashes, outdoor search and rescue operations, and more.

“This is great news for the state and a smart investment in the community.  I commend all the fire chiefs, mayors, and city and town officials who worked on these competitive grants for their communities.  These federal funds will help ensure fire departments are well-staffed and well-equipped.  Adding these additional firefighters will improve the level of service and public safety,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee who helped boost the SAFER grant program by $10 million in the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations law.  “I will continue doing everything I can at the federal level to help our dedicated firefighters protect our communities and improve emergency response capabilities.”

“The federal funds awarded to the fire departments in Cumberland, Lincoln, Smithfield, Woonsocket and West Warwick are critically important for the safety of Rhode Islanders.  I’m pleased that these departments are now able to further invest in new training, emergency vehicles, equipment upgrades and the additional resources necessary for our first responders to properly and effectively protect our communities,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Congratulations are in order to the five fire departments; we are incredibly grateful for the work you do.”

“Making sure our fire departments are equipped with enough personnel and the proper equipment is vital to the protection of our communities,” said Congressman Langevin. “I congratulate the Cumberland, Saylesville, Smithfield, West Warwick and Woonsocket fire departments for winning these competitive grant awards.”

“Bringing federal funding back to the State of Rhode Island is one of my top priorities in Congress,” said Congressman Cicilline. “These critical resources will help the communities of Cumberland, Saylesville, Smithfield, and Woonsocket to hire additional firefighters, and will allow the brave men and women in these departments to continue to safely and effectively serve their communities.”

“I was informed earlier today of the awarding of a SAFER grant to the Cumberland Fire Department.  The purpose of the grant application was to bolster the ranks of the Cumberland Fire Department, to cover extended absences of personnel.  The award of the grant will allow the department to cover vacant positions with a permanent employee, will provide for experience in the workforce and safety for the membership.  The use of fill in personnel for each vacancy, allows for an interruption in the continuity of the company.  Today’s announcement will enhance the foundation of the Cumberland Fire Department,” said Chief Kenneth A. Finlay of the Cumberland Fire Department.

“I would like to thank Senator Reed and the Congressional delegation for their support in securing a $143,790 SAFER grant.  This grant will provide partial funding over the next three years to hire one new fulltime firefighter.  This grant supports the ongoing efforts of the newly combined Saylesville/Lonsdale Fire District Board to provide the residents of the District and the Town of Lincoln with the best possible fire protection in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Saylesville Fire Chief Robert Fisher.

“The West Warwick Fire Department  would like to thank Senator Jack Reed and the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation for their assistance in obtaining this vital public safety funding,” said West Warwick Fire Chief J. Jeffrey Varone.

“The Smithfield Fire Department is grateful to the Rhode Island Congressional delegation for their efforts to secure funds under the Homeland Security SAFER Grant. This grant will allow us to staff another fulltime rescue to respond to medical calls and fire incidents.  Last year we were not able to handle 222 medical calls due to the lack of rescue personnel.  The Town also lost $100,000 in revenue and residents had to wait for out of town rescues to reach their home.  This grant will also allow us to staff our ladder/fire truck which will serve the north-end of Town and reduce response times from 8 to 14 minutes down to 4 to 6 minutes.  This is critical time needed to save a live or stop a fire from spreading throughout a home,” said Chief Robert Seltzer of the Smithfield Fire Department.

“This is exciting news for the Woonsocket Fire Department as this SAFER Grant will provide the financial resources to return shift apparatus staffing back up to a full complement,” said Chief Paul Shatraw of the Woonsocket Fire Department.  “The City of Woonsocket is fortunate to have such a great Congressional Delegation that supports the necessity of these SAFER Grants and Assistance to Firefighters Grants providing cities and towns with the resource assistance to fund equipment, training and manpower to keep our fire force safe.”

Rhode Island fire departments and other first responders across the state have successfully secured over $38 million in AFG awards since 2001 to pay for equipment upgrades, protective gear, emergency vehicles, and training and nearly $43 million since 2005 in SAFER awards to help departments hire new firefighters.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921