United States Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) late Thursday afternoon announced a combined $967,378.78 in federal Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) funding to improve safety and operations in local fire departments across New Jersey.
The AFG program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“This federal funding will ensure New Jersey firefighters have the equipment and training they need not just to keep them safe, but also to protect the communities and people they serve,” said Sen. Menendez.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our families safe, and the best way to say ‘thank you’ is by giving our first responders the tools and support they need to do their jobs safely.”
The news arrived less than a month since three of Cherry Hill’s own firefighters dug through the concrete rubble that was the aftermath of the devastating June 24 collapse at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.
Captain Daniel DiRenzo III, Captain Robert MacDermott and firefighter Jacob Speas are also members of New Jersey Task Force 1, one of 28 FEMA urban search and rescue teams in the United States tasked with recovering bodies at the 13 story structure.
The search teams worked 12-hour shifts, with MacDermott and Speas on the midnight- to-noon shift and DiRenzo working noon to midnight. They stayed on a ship at the Miami Cruise Terminal and were transported to the site about 45 minutes away. On average, they slept around five hours at a time.
MacDermott said the work was debilitating, with the average heat index coming in over 100 degrees, with 78 percent humidity. To prevent heat exhaustion, the search teams frequently rotated, with each person combing the site for 45 minutes, then resting for 30 minutes in the rehabilitation area.
“I’m proud to announce this critically necessary federal funding to support our firefighters and EMTs as they continue their selfless work serving New Jerseyans,” said Sen. Booker.
“Each day, these brave men and women risk their lives running into danger, and this grant will help ensure that fire and EMS departments across our state have the funds necessary to provide much-needed equipment and training to protect their personnel and communities.”
The following departments have been awarded Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG):
· $301,768.64 – Cherry Hill Fire District (Camden)
· $148,786.36 – Englewood Fire Dept. (Bergen)
· $142,650.91 – Passaic City Fire Dept. (Passaic)
· $116,488.11 – Gloucester City (Camden)
· $69,925.71 – Hanover Twp. (Cedar Knolls, Morris)
· $56,000.00 – Pleasantville Fire Dept. (Atlantic)
· $47,588.57 – High Bridge Borough Hall (Hunterdon)
· $42,600.00 – Secaucus, Town of (Hudson)
· $41,570.48 – Ramsey Fire Dept. (Bergen)
The AFG program provides direct financial assistance to eligible local professional and voluntary fire departments, emergency medical services organizations, and state fire training academies to equip and train first responders.
Since it was established in 2001, New Jersey has received over $180 million in funding from the AFG program to enhance response capabilities, as well as to more effectively protect the health and safety of the public and emergency response personnel.