It’s not every day that a small-town fire department receives a phone call with a $300,000-plus ring to it.
It happened Wednesday when Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Chief Herb Brady received a call from Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office informing him the fire department won a $330,000 competitive grant through the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program.
The program is designed to help fire departments increase or maintain the number of trained firefighters. In this case, the grant money will be geared toward volunteer recruitment, training and retention.
Brady said the grant amount is the largest ever for the fire department. He said the department applied for the grant last summer.
“Big surprise. We were very, very hopeful,” said Brady after receiving the big news Wednesday afternoon. “We felt like we had a very strong application and we couldn’t be happier. That was the total sum of our grant, so we’re happy that they elected to fund the entire grant.”
Bennet said in a statement that he was happy that WSFR could use the grant money for hiring and training.
“We’re glad that Windsor will be able to use these resources to hire and train the firefighters they need to protect their community,” Bennet said.
Brady said the grant will allow WSFR to do a variety of things in beefing up the volunteer staffing.
“It includes a coordinator position for three years,” Brady said. “It also will allow us to add another academy every year. We had been doing one volunteer academy a year. We can now add a second one. It will allow us to equip the firefighters, which can be up to $5,000 apiece, in their training and equipment. It will allow us to get in and do some exciting and innovative programs to recruit volunteers and enhance our diversity.”
Brady said there are a lot of people who would make excellent volunteer firefighters, but they don’t know it.
“We’re going to be able to get out and talk to them and show them what it’s about, and maybe look into the areas where we’re not drawing people and that’s women, minorities, older people. It’s a physical position, but it’s very rewarding and I think a lot of people just assume they can’t do this.”
Brady said there are currently 38 volunteers and 32 career firefighters in the department, which includes two fire stations in Windsor and a new one in Severance. Brady said WSFR just graduated the largest volunteer academy ever with a class of 20.
He said the full-time coordinator’s job description is still in the process of being developed, but the general framework of the job will be to recruit, train, retain and provide the support necessary to coordinate the program.
“We’re a combination department. We depend on volunteers to operate. We cannot operate without them,” Brady said. “They’re an important supplement to our career staffing. Together they’re a pretty strong group.”