USA Today

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided grants to six Bucks County fire companies and rescue squads to assist with recruitment and retention of firefighters and for safety needs, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick's office has announced.

The Bristol Third District Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 received a grant for $357,480 and the Union Fire Co., Station 37, in Bensalem received a grant for $100,000 through the 2019 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program.

To enhance the safety measures benefiting both the public and first responders, the Union Fire Co. in Bensalem received $57,143 and the Chalfont Fire Co. No. 1 received $198,894 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program in fiscal year 2019.

In fiscal 2020, to help fight the COVID-19 crisis, supplemental AFG grants were awarded to the Central Bucks Ambulance and Rescue Unit, $233,515; the New Hope Eagle Fire Co., $10,714; and the Bristol Fire Co., $7,457. 

"Since the outbreak of COVID-19, volunteer fire departments across my community have struggled with fundraising and balancing their budgets," Fitzpatrick said. "Our volunteer departments have been facing immense budgetary and manpower challenges that predated COVID-19. Now, these departments are tasked with the extremely consequential mission of protecting lives and protecting property with one hand tied behind their back. It is imperative that we give  the necessary supplies and tools to our volunteer responders to ensure that when we call 911, they can do their job."

The mission of the SAFER program is to allow the recipient fire companies to attain and maintain 24-hour staffing and to better ensure that their communities have adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards.  FEMA is awarding $350 million to fire companies across the United States to expand the number of firefighters available.

The AFG program is designed to enhance the ability of fire departments, emergency medical services, and fire training academies to protect the health and safety of the public as well as first responders. It is awarding $315 million across the country for these efforts in fiscal year 2019. 

Fitzpatrick spokesman Will Kiley said some of the awards are based on 2019’s budget because that is when the application process for the grants began. FEMA just recently began announcing the grant awards.