This program was made possible with the 2018 State of Kansas budget passed by the state Legislature. Last year, 36 departments were awarded grant funds with the previous grant budget of $200,000. The OSFM was able to award grant funds to nearly twice as many departments this year, as funding was doubled to $400,000.
Volunteer and part-time fire departments face recruitment and retention challenges because they do not have the funding to provide safety equipment. Without new equipment provided by the recruiting fire department, potential volunteers are faced with not only donating their time but also providing their own safety gear, sharing gear with others, or doing without.
There is also a proven increase in cancer diagnoses for firefighters, which can be caused by prolonged exposure to carcinogens, particulates and biohazards. The proper gear, regular cleaning of that gear and equipment, along with preventative healthcare is crucial for a firefighter’s health and well-being.
According to Mankato Volunteer Fire Department Co-Chief Brian Shulda, the grants awarded by the OSFM are a step in the right direction.
This year, over $1.3 million in requests from 79 departments were submitted. Fire departments received approximately $310,000 to be used for safety gear and $90,000 for 26 washer/extractor machines. Due to the high number of requests, OSFM will be requesting the 2019 Legislature continue funding this important grant.
For more information on the Kansas Firefighter Recruitment and Safety Grant Program, please visit https://firemarshal.ks.gov/