By Kris Perez - email
NEW ORLEANS, LA (KPLC) - The Louisiana State Firemen's Association (LSFA) recently received a $980,000 "SAFER" grant through FEMA. The grant will help the LSFA recruit and retain volunteer firefighters here in Louisiana.
"One of the most pressing problems we face in Louisiana communities is the consistent decline in the ranks of our emergency volunteers" stated, Butch Browning, State Fire Marshal." Volunteers are the first line of defense in our communities", "The LSFA and the State Fire Marshal's Office are uniquely positioned and have the infrastructure to undertake a State wide "Recruitment and Retention Initiative" for volunteer fire and EMS workers", Browning added.
"The purpose of the grant program is to increase public awareness of the role and importance of emergency services and to educate public as to the importance of volunteerism for supporting and maintaining emergency services while bolstering the ranks of both paid professional and volunteer professional fire and emergency service workers", commented Paul Gilmore, author of the grant.
This is especially timely in light of Tuesday's fire at a DeRidder strip mall, when volunteer firefighters aided DeRidder firefighters. Of the 75 to 100 firefighters on scene more than 90 percent were volunteers: from Beauregard Parish fire districts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Also Allen Parish fire district 3 and from Vernon Parish fire district 1, as well as Rosepine Fire Department.
The grant program offers applicants the chance to qualify for tuition reimbursement of up to $8,000 for a two year degreee and up to $16,000 for a four year degree. The program is designed to run for four years, and the applicant has to complete the requirements of the grant program by meeting the minimum criteria set forth in the grant narrative.
To receive the grant, applicants must be an active responding, certified member of a volunteer fire department for a minimum of two years. Applicants should have certifications of Fire Fighter I or higher, and/or Medical First Responder or EMT or higher. Recruit applicants must complete the academic requirements of a two or four year program in a State Junior College, Vocational Technical School or a State Collage and receive a degree and diploma for that curriculum. The volunteer service and education requirements don't have to be happen at the same time, but they must be completed within the four years of the grant program.
The LSFA and the State Fire Marshal's Office will soon launch an aggressive and comprehensive public awareness and marketing campaign targeted at 18 to 35 year old Louisianans. The campaign will be designed to educate the public, and increase awareness of the need for volunteers, and the value of volunteers. It will also highlight the advantage and benefits for someone to become a member of a Louisiana Volunteer Fire Department while furthering their education.
For more information about this opportunity visit their website at http://vfdla.org or call toll free @ 1-800-FIRE-LINE (800-347-3546) or contact your local fire department's Fire Chief.