State fire departments receive millions in grant funding

Voorhees and Berlin fire departments receive funds to help increase volunteer numbers

State fire departments received millions of dollars in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security throughout September, with grants funds being awarded through both the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response and Assistance to Firefighter Grants programs.

In total, U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker announced a total of approximately $22 million in federal funding. Voorhees Township was awarded more than $1.4 million through the SAFER grant, while Berlin Fire Co. in Berlin Borough was awarded approximately $418,000.

“Day after day, New Jersey’s firefighters go above and beyond to keep our families and communities safe,” said Menendez, in a release“In return, we must fully invest in our fire departments to ensure they are sufficiently staffed and that our men and women are properly trained and equipped with the tools they need to keep us safe.”

“New Jersey’s emergency services are only as strong as those who are selflessly willing to protect our communities,” said Booker. “This federal investment will help 11 fire departments across New Jersey hire, recruit, and retain firefighters, strengthening the quality of our state’s emergency services and keeping residents safe.”

According to the release by Menendez’s office, the SAFER grant program is used to support the hiring of career firefighters and the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. Since 2006, the state has received more than $251 million in SAFER funding.

“The Voorhees Township Fire Department is excited about receiving an award notice from the 2019 Homeland Security FEMA AFG Grant,” said Voorhees Township Chief of Police Louis J. Bordi. “Protecting the public and our fire service personnel from fires and related hazards continues to be our highest priority.”

“I want to thank Congressman Norcross for his support to obtain this grant which will aide our communities and neighboring communities with providing needed manpower during daytime hours where it is difficult to find available volunteers,” said chief of the Berlin Fire Company Michael Kernan. “The grant also provides funding to recruit and retain additional volunteers beyond the daytime hours and overall bolster the volunteer membership of both volunteer organizations, and ultimately ensure the safety of the community and neighboring community as we respond to calls throughout Camden County.”

With the need for both career and volunteer firefighters continuing to be an ever-growing problem across the state and country, both also stated such funds and programs help gather further support from the community in assisting with emergency situations.

“It’s important for us to continue to explore ways to increase our volunteer firefighters,” said Bordi.

According to Kernan, the grant the Berlin Fire Company received is split with the fire department from West Berlin. Having 90 days to determine the split of the grant funding between the two towns, the funds will then be used to make fliers and recruitment videos that will be used to encourage more volunteer firefighters from the community.