May 4—Hempfield leaders are looking for federal dollars that would benefit the township fire department.
Supervisors have authorized the township manager to advertise for a grant writer and manager, one of the first steps as they prepare to submit an application in July for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant.
The grant is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the goal of providing funding to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help increase or maintain the number of trained firefighters. The township has been managing a similar grant for countywide fire departments, which was awarded in 2017.
That $4.3 million grant is managed by the Hempfield Bureau of Fire and is being shared by 60 departments representing 83 of the county's fire stations. Not every department is participating, but those that are saw a 21% increase in volunteers, said James Shaw, Hempfield's director of code and safety.
The decision to apply for a grant that would benefit Hempfield comes as township officials are working to improve fire service.
Recent changes include having the now 11 stations fall under one department headed by a paid fire chief and paid deputy fire chief.
Officials are working to have the stations become chartered members of the fire department, meaning the township would incur financial obligations, property and apparatus from the stations to give firefighters an opportunity to focus on training and emergency response to community incidents.
"Although the current SAFER grant has been successful, the township took on a burden for other municipalities," Shaw said. "I felt that our resources would be better utilized focusing on the needs of the Hempfield volunteers and helping Chief (Tony) Kovacic build our departments toward the future."
According to Shaw, township leaders will begin advertising for requests for proposals this month. A selection will be made in June, and they will prepare to apply for the grant in July.
The total amount for the grant is not yet known, Shaw said, noting that he will sit with the grant writer, the fire chief and deputy fire chief to determine the department's needs.
There are six months left in the countywide SAFER grant. Shaw noted that, due to covid, officials plan to ask for an extension on the timeline of the grant.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, email@example.com or via Twitter .