Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, along with Congressmen Barney Frank, Jim McGovern, and William Keating, today announced that the Fall River Fire Department has won $14,453,524 in federal funding, protecting 79 firefighter jobs that would have been lost due to local budget cuts.
The Fall River Fire Department had planned to lay off 79 firefighters due to cuts of nearly $5 million, or 44 percent, of the Department's total operating budget over the past three fiscal years. Senator Kerry assisted the City of Fall River with their funding application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and sent a follow-up letter of support to the Administrator of FEMA urging the agency to grant Fall River's request. Senator Kerry also called the Assistant Administrator directly to make the case for this application and met with Mayor Flanagan in Washington, DC in March to provide an update on the process.
Without today's funding, drastic reductions in staffing would have forced Fall River to close four of the eight engine companies, one of three ladder companies, the heavy rescue, one of two command vehicles, and two full fire stations. With only six remaining firefighting companies to protect the city, two sections of the city would have been without adequate, readily available fire protection.
The new federal funding, awarded by FEMA's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants Program, will keep firefighters on the job and strengthen training for front line firefighters in Fall River.
"When Mayor Flanagan came to me with this proposal he said it would mean the difference between 79 firefighters protecting the city or closing two fire stations and asking the community to fend for themselves," said Sen. Kerry. "That's why we went at this full force -- making the case any way we knew how -- in the application process and with months of phone calls, letters, and one-on-one conversations with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. This is how government should work, and I'm thrilled to congratulate Mayor Flanagan and Chief Silva on this all-hands-on-deck effort and a job well done."
"I am so proud that Fall River has won one of the largest SAFER grants in recent history," said Sen. Brown. "Under the Fall River Fire Department's responsibility is an unusually broad range of fire protection environments - from densely developed city to 12,000 acres of remote forest - that makes it absolutely critical that the Department has adequate staffing. Fall River is highly deserving of this award and I am very pleased that FEMA has agreed with the compelling case Fall River has made."
"This is great news for the city of Fall River and for public safety, and it represents a favorable verdict on the city's administration of these funds to date," said Rep. Frank. "I'm very proud of the way my congressional colleagues and I worked to help make the city's case. This is one more example of why it's important that we provide adequate funding to help state and local governments to meet their needs at a difficult time."
"I was proud to support the city's SAFER grant application, and I'm thrilled with this award," said Rep. McGovern. "These are difficult economic times, and this federal funding will ensure that Fall River won't need to make devastating cuts to their fire service. The federal government should be a strong partner with local communities on issues of public safety, and I will continue to push for adequate funding for programs like SAFER."
"As Ranking Member of a Homeland Security Subcommittee, I've seen an increase in resources being taken out of our local communities creating a ripple of devastating effects to our safety," said Rep. Keating. "Cities that were manufacturing hubs at the turn of the century and have neighborhoods comprised of historical homes, such as Fall River, are often at greater fire risk. Response time to a fire is the most critical factor in protecting the lives of both citizens and firefighters. That's why staffing levels are so important. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues, Barney Frank and Jim McGovern, to make sure these funds were secured in the House and applaud Senator Kerry's work to ensure they also went through in the Senate."
"I want to commend our Federal Delegation for their hard work in securing the SAFER Grant," said Fall River Mayor William Flanagan. "This grant will allow the City of Fall River to continue to retain its staffing levels in protecting the lives and property of our citizens. Now we must work hard together over the next two years to sustain this announcement."