Frederick County secures $9.7 million grant for career firefighters

October 18, 2023

Frederick County, Maryland has received a $9.7 million federal grant to onboard 32 new career firefighters.

This announcement was made by County Executive Jessica Fitzwater, D.

The new positions are in line with the county’s initiative to increase staff on each of its fire engines, ladder trucks, and rescue squads from three to four.

This move towards four-person staffing comes after the 2021 tragic incident involving Battalion Chief Joshua Laird.

Increasing efficiency and safety

Fire Chief Tom Coe highlighted during a press conference: “Four-person staffing is scientifically proven to perform more efficiently in critical tasks like search and rescue and putting water on the fire.

“More efficient fire grounds means safer fire grounds for the citizens we serve, as well as the firefighters working to save those citizens.”

Lessons from the past

The death of Battalion Chief Joshua Laird in 2021 had a significant impact on this staffing decision.

An after-action report following the incident led to 137 recommendations, with one major suggestion being the increase in staffing.

According to Coe, this hiring forms the second step of the three-step plan initiated by the Fire and Rescue Services Division for improved safety and efficiency.

The division had previously added one firefighter each to seven different units last year.

This prior addition was also funded through the same grant program.

SAFER program’s continued support

Since 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program has allocated over $35 million to Frederick County.

This year’s grant will primarily cater to the salaries and benefits of the new firefighters for their first three years.

Afterwards, the responsibility to bear the financial load will transition to the county’s budget.

The fresh batch of firefighters will commence their training in January and will be ready for service by November next year.

Upon their integration, the Division of Fire and Rescue Services will have 633 career firefighters in total.

Federal and community backing

This substantial grant was announced in conjunction with the federal delegation for Frederick County.

#Among those in attendance were Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Rep. David Trone, D. Representatives from the Career Firefighters Association of Frederick County and Sara Laird, Joshua Laird’s widow, were also present.

Senator Cardin remarked: “Josh Laird lost his life trying to help others. We can’t do enough to show our appreciation.”

Cardin also emphasized the competitive nature of the SAFER grant and proudly mentioned Frederick County’s achievement in receiving the highest grant in the state this year.

Future plans

The meeting held at the Northgate Fire Station in Frederick saw discussions about other supportive measures for first responders.

Sen. Van Hollen introduced the Fire Station Act in the Senate, aiming to establish grants for fire station infrastructure.

The delegation is further backing the Fire Grants and Safety Act, which looks forward to renewing the SAFER program for another five years.

FSJA Comment

The recent $9.7 million federal grant acquired by Frederick County stands as a testament to the undeniable value of career firefighters in our communities.

By bolstering the numbers on each firefighting unit, not only does it optimize efficiency, but it also amplifies safety for both citizens and firefighters alike.

Drawing lessons from past events, such as the tragic loss of Battalion Chief Joshua Laird, reinforces the necessity of adequate staffing.

This grant, coupled with the ongoing support from the SAFER program, showcases a collective commitment towards a safer, more efficient firefighting future in Frederick County.

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