New York initiates $10 million volunteer firefighter training stipend program

June 25, 2024

First round of training stipend payments issued

As reported by the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul, New York has launched its new $10 million Volunteer Firefighter Training Stipend program.

The first round of payments, totaling $140,250, has been issued to 105 students from over 50 fire departments across the state.

The program, included in the FY24 Enacted Budget, aims to strengthen the volunteer fire service by offsetting training costs.

Governor Hochul stated: “Volunteer firefighters put their lives on the line each day out of a selfless dedication to serving and protecting our communities.

These investments affirm our commitment to their service, and to the vital role they play in keeping New Yorkers safe.”

The stipends, ranging from $500 to $1,250, are based on the completion of various training courses.

This initiative is designed to facilitate the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters by alleviating the financial burden of required training.

Decline in volunteer firefighter numbers

Approximately nine million New Yorkers rely on volunteer firefighters.

However, more than 75 percent of fire departments have reported a decline in volunteers.

The responsibilities of volunteer firefighters have expanded to include not only fire protection but also vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, hazardous material spills, and weather-related rescue operations.

Calls for service have increased by 29 percent from 1997 to 2020.

To address these challenges, Governor Hochul has introduced this stipend program, administered by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC).

Stipends are awarded for first-time completions of specific training courses, including Basic Exterior Firefighting Operations ($750), Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus / Interior Firefighting Operations ($1,250), and Fire Officer 1 ($1,000).

A local fire training stipend of up to $500 may also be authorized for other OFPC training courses.

Support from state officials and fire associations: “Training should not be a barrier to those who want to serve.”

State officials and fire association leaders have expressed support for the program.

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray commented: “Volunteer firefighters provide a critical service in so many New York communities that do not have a full-time paid department.

“Training should not be a barrier to those who want to serve.”

State Senator Lea Webb and Assemblymember Donna Lupardo highlighted the importance of volunteer firefighters in rural and local communities, emphasizing the need for such support to address recruitment and retention challenges.

Broome County Executive Jason Garnar acknowledged the significant sacrifices made by volunteer firefighters and the positive impact of the stipends on their families.

Firefighters Association of the State of New York President Edward Tase noted the essential role of volunteer firefighters in saving local taxpayers nearly $4 billion annually.

He praised the stipend program as an effective tool for recruitment and retention.

Endwell Fire Department Chief Mike Battaglini shared that the stipends have positively impacted his department, contributing to an increase in active members.

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