Weekly Feature

2012-07-18 / Education

Reimbursement available for firefighters

Student firefighters in Erie County can get a little help paying for college tuition now.

On Thursday, Erie County Emergency Services and Erie Community College representatives joined the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York in announcing that Erie County student volunteer firefighters now have access to tuition reimbursement through a federal grant designed to recruit firefighters across the state.

The announcement was made at the Erie County Emergency Services Training and Operations Center in Cheektowaga.

FASNY’s Higher Education Learning Plan, a tuition reimbursement program that helps student volunteer firefighters offset the cost of education at their local community college, is one component of a multi-pronged effort to recruit 15,000 new volunteer firefighters in the next three years across New York State. The reimbursements are made possible by the federally funded Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant awarded to FASNY last year.

Additionally, Erie County has a tuition reimbursement program funded by a separate SAFER grant that enables the county to help new firefighter recruits earn ECC college credits for completing their basic Firefighter 1 training.

These credits can be used specifically in the Fire Protection Technology program, as electives in other degree programs and as potential transfer credits to other schools.

“We are very excited about this ‘win-win’ solution, which benefits the student volunteers in Erie County and broadens the number of new firefighters we can recruit through the SAFER programs,” said FASNY President David Jacobowitz. “This program is a fantastic way to promote education and the crucial need for volunteer firefighters in our local community.”

Both grants are funded by the Department of Homeland Security. The combination of these grants is expected to help Erie County maximize the number of volunteer firefighters recruited and local fire departments helped.

“It’s our goal that the free college credits we’re able to offer under the SAFER grant we secured in cooperation with our Erie County Fire Chiefs Mutual Aid Organization will help our volunteer firefighters jump-start their educational journey,” said County Commissioner of Emergency Services Daniel Neaverth, Jr. “Combining a solid educational foundation with the knowledge, skills and abilities they gain from the free fire training we offer will give them the complete package they need to be a safe and effective firefighter.”

According to FASNY, the need for volunteer responders is greater than ever. The ranks of volunteer firefighters in New York State have been declining in recent years, from approximately 100,000 to 88,000.

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