Philadelphia fire companies to benefit from $22.4 million SAFER grant

October 18, 2023

Reopening fire companies in Philadelphia after a devastating fire

Three fire companies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, that were shut down in 2009 will soon resume operations, following the allocation of a $22.4 million federal grant.

This decision comes in the aftermath of a devastating fire in the city that claimed the lives of 12 individuals, among them nine children.

With the new grant, all of the seven fire companies that were previously closed during Mayor Michael Nutter’s tenure will be functional again.

The need to restore fire response capacity in Philadelphia

The closures that took place years ago were, according to former Mayor Nutter, due to fiscal constraints the city was experiencing at that time.

However, Mike Bresnan, the President of Philadelphia Local 22, remarked: “The closures put an undue burden on the department and affected service response.”

Notably, a SAFER grant in 2019 facilitated the reactivation of Engine 1, Engine 8, Engine 14, and Engine 39. Yet, this did not prevent the tragic incident on January 5, 2022.

On that specific day, a rowhouse situated in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood was rapidly consumed by flames.

The origin of the fire was a child inadvertently ignited a Christmas tree.

The structure didn’t have a fire escape, and the sole operational smoke detector was in the basement.

Support and future plans for fire safety in Philadelphia

Post the incident, General President Edward Kelly extended full support from the IAFF to Bresnan.

Bresnan expressed: “I told him we really needed to get Ladder 1 company back open, which would have been the first due company.

“We will never know for sure, but I believe if Ladder 1 had been available, we would have made more saves that day.”

This conversation was soon followed by a communication from General President Kelly to Bresnan: “The General President called me back, saying that I was going to get a call from President Joe Biden.”

During their conversation, President Biden committed to leveraging his authority to release federal funds via the SAFER grant initiative.

Both Mayor Jim Kenney and Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel have emphasized the significance of reopening the fire companies.

The grant will be employed to recruit, educate, and remunerate 72 fire fighter/EMTs, ensuring they man the revived companies for the next three years.

The city will take over the personnel expenses after this period.

Emphasizing the essence of a firefighter’s role, Kelly, during his visit to Philadelphia on the first anniversary of the Fairmount fire, asserted: “The most important thing we bring to a fire isn’t ladders or water, it is fire fighters.

“Having more adequately trained and properly equipped fire fighters on scene quickly will make the citizens of Philadelphia safer and better protected.”

FSJA Comment

The resurgence of these fire companies in Philadelphia is a testament to the integral role they play in safeguarding communities.

Firefighters are not merely first responders; they are a critical layer of protection for the city’s inhabitants.

The commitment shown by local and federal authorities in reviving these fire companies showcases the importance of fire response capacities in metropolitan areas.

With the grant facilitating the reopening of these units, Philadelphia will see an enhancement in its emergency response infrastructure, furthering safety for its residents.

Read Next

Subscribe Now