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Five-Alarm Assistance For Local Firefighters

At a time when talk of Long Island school and water district consolidation has stirred up plenty of pushback, 14 Nassau County fire departments joined forces to apply for federal grants. The result? Great Neck, East Williston, Vigilant, Albertson, Manhasset-Lakeville, New Hyde Park, Lynbrook, Lakeville, South Hempstead, Port Washington, Plandome, Floral Park Center, and Bellerose Terrace fire departments will share almost $700, 000 in federal monies.  

Spearheaded by Williston Park based Grant-Guys, New York State’s largest fire grant company, the resulting funding monetary influx comes via AFGP (Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program), a federal program to update firefighter safety and response throughout the nation. The money will allow these departments to share the burden of expensive and highly specialized costs such as personnel, marketing and advertising. And given how each of these fire districts wound up each receiving a piece of the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) award, consolidation may not be such a bad way to go.

“Marketing very often affects entire regions, making cooperation among small localized populations the most efficient means of communication,” according to Tom Devaney, director of operations at Grant-Guys.

Some of the money from this award will allow for the placement of television, radio, print and Internet advertising in addition to other initiatives like web-based programs. And while paid firefighters in municipalities like New York City wind up with a lengthy waiting list of applicants wanting to go into this branch of civil service, outreach and recruitment is crucial to the survival of volunteer fire departments throughout Long Island.

“Getting them through the door is a big problem. Once they’re through the door, they realize it’s their neighbor who is someone just like them,” pointed out Kevin Mulrooney, a 27-year firefighter and Grant-Guys VP. “We’re trying to get people to understand that these firefighters in your community are not coming from some other place.”

“[Plus] anyone can be a fireman,” Devaney pointed out. “We provide training on how to become a fireman. You have doctors, lawyers, police officers, accountants and writers, all in the same firehouse.”

Not unlike the New York City Fire Department, volunteer firefighters receive special training at a fire academy. According to Mulrooney, paramedic training alone annually rings in at a cost of roughly $10,000 per trainee. It is a needed expense not covered by the state. Part of the federal grant covers this expense and in the end, this kind of training is mutually beneficial for volunteers and the department, a boon during these trying economic times.

“We have a grant, actually, that if you come in and join the fire department, we’ll send you through paramedic training, which is the equivalent of a year of medical school. [All you do is] guarantee us time back in the fire service and we pay for your training,” explained Mulrooney. “You can also be a nationally registered paramedic and go anywhere in the country with that [certification].”

“And if you go out there with a paramedic license, you’ve got a job. They’re hiring paramedics left and right,” added Devaney.