All politics being local was on display in Paramus May 2 when state and federal lawmakers descended on Fire House No. 3 to highlight the $10 million being proposed to firefighters throughout the state in Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget.
It was so local that State Sen. Joseph Lagana (D-38) lived only six blocks away from where the event was being held.
“If I pick up the phone and call 911, they are coming from here,” said Lagana. “This is very personal to me and it should be very personal to all of us. Particularly in the town of Paramus, (firefighters) are always out on the road…they are not only fighting fires, they are out there doing everything.”
Firefighter Grant Program
The Firefighter Grant Program, first launched in May 2022 with federal American Rescue Plan money, provides funding to local and regional fire departments across New Jersey to ensure firefighters have proper protective, cleaning, and sanitization equipment.
The state’s Department of Community Affairs awarded a total of 293 fire departments up to $56,000 to cover the costs of much equipment such as protective clothing, which includes turnout clothing ensembles, pants, garments, helmets, hoods, gloves, and footwear; cleaning and advanced cleaning equipment; oxygen equipment; personal protective equipment (PPE); and other fire/virus protection equipment.
Grant awards were prioritized towards volunteer fire departments, like Paramus Fire Company 3, as well as departments in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Paramus Assistant Chief Vincent Torre said the funding is needed as firefighters face new challenges and the impact the coronavirus pandemic had had on firefighters and what they now encounter on calls.
“We now deal with biological issues because of COVID and new dangers, such as electrical vehicle fires,” said Torre. “All of these have changed how fire departments operate and raised the cost of PPE and particulate hoods.”
State, Federal Partnership
Murphy noted that the money being spent is due in part to the good relationship his office has had with the New Jersey congressional delegation compared to others states where “there is a fight of how to spend the money” and lauded Rep. Josh Gottheimer for his work on the matter.
“The firefighters of our state provide an essential service and they deserve to do so with the best equipment the market has to offer,” said Murphy. “Our first responders risk their lives daily to make sure our communities are safe and healthy, and this Administration will continue to prioritize their needs to keep them safe while they do their jobs.”
Gottheimer said clawing back the federal money being spent for firefighters is key to making North Jersey and the state a place that is more affordable to live in. In the last year, $1.1 million federal dollars were used for fire departments in the 5th Congressional District, including $43,000 for Paramus alone.
“We know how critical it is for firefighters to have proper cleaning and sanitizing gear for when they return from calls, too,” he said. “These new resources can also be used to purchase the right washers and dryers to protect them from long-term effects like cancer.”
Returning Money to the 5th District
“These are dollars that are not being raised from pancake breakfasts or don’t have to come out of town budgets,” said Gottheimer. “These are our tax dollars that are actually coming back from the federal government to help our families and communities here in Jersey—and not going to the Moocher States.”
Murphy stressed how “just numbers” in state and federal budget can make a difference in local communities. He said Paramus was able to buy the particulate blocking hoods that keep firefighters safe from carcinogens and other contaminants that are in the air when fighting fires.
“That is a big deal because it is those harmful toxins that are tragically giving firefighters a disproportionate rate of cancer,” said the governor. “With their funds, Paramus was able to replace their hoods that were past their use date and were putting firefighters at risk….this is literally lifesaving equipment.”
For Lagana, funding that targets volunteer departments and those more hurt by the pandemic makes a difference on the local level.
“Whenever the state steps in or the federal government steps in, it is a big deal,” said the State Senator, who noted that a new fire truck can cost a town $1 million. “These resources will help make sure needed equipment and tools are up to standard, that protective gear is up to date, and that emergency vehicles are maintained and in good working order. There is no better way than to spend the money on our firefighters.”
Gottheimer offered that “When it comes to protecting all of our first responders, whether that’s firefighters, law enforcement, or EMTs, we know that we have to invest to protect. This new investment will go to the equipment firefighters need to keep themselves and our communities safe…all vitally necessary for doing their jobs and keeping all of us safe.”
NOW; This is very Worthwhile Funding!! Firefighters have been the forgotten Heroes!! And it’s time they receive proper acknowledgements of their fine work in saving Lives & Community’s!!//