U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today released a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging approval of a FEMA grant for Reading to rehire 30 firefighters lost since 2010.
"Reading's residents expect the best emergency response capabilities possible," said Senator Casey. "This grant would help the city serve its residents in a safer and more effective manner, which is why I'm urging the Department of Homeland Security to approve it without delay."
In a letter to the Assistant Administrator for DHS/FEMA Program Preparedness, Senator Casey notes that Reading's high population density coupled with a large number of older wooden homes puts the city at especially high risk of rapidly spreading fires.
The Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant would help Reading keep its residents safe and also protect firefighters from having to practice unsafe practices, like entering burning structures alone, that have resulted from reduced staffing levels.
The full text of Senator Casey's letter is below:
Ms. Elizabeth M. Harman
DHS/FEMA Program Preparedness
Dear Ms. Harman:
It is my understanding that the City of Reading's Department of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS) has submitted an application (EMW-2012-FH-00197) to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grant. The purpose of this letter is to express my support for this proposal and urge you to give it full and fair consideration.
Census Bureau data currently indicate that Reading has the largest share of residents living in poverty of any city in the U.S. with a population of 65,000 or more. I have been informed that the Department is ranked as the third busiest in Pennsylvania because of the City's population increase. I am further informed that the City's high population density coupled with the large number of older wooden framed row homes have contributed to rapidly spreading fires. As it appears, all these factors have put tremendous strain on the DFRS budget.
I understand the DFRS will use this funding to rehire 30 firefighters who were lost through attrition since 2010. I have been advised that current staffing levels require firefighters to enter structural fires by themselves to begin fire attack and rescue operations. The Department has pointed out that this practice is contrary to national standards and has tragically led to a high number of firefighter injuries. I am further advised that as a result of budget cuts the Department has been forced to close two engine companies. This has caused the Department to drop their minimum shift staffing from 22 to 18. The Department has also experienced a substantial decrease in its volunteer force, which has dropped from over 200 to 3. This funding will undoubtedly help the City of Reading's Department of Fire and Rescue Services serve its residents in a safer and more effective manner.
Thank you in advance for the consideration of my views. Please include this letter in the official record of the application. Consistent with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, I also respectfully request that you keep me informed of the status of this grant application.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator