Fire Commissioner Steven Coan and Jeffrey Simon
When Massachusetts State Fire Marshall Steven Coan says that "you can't get anything better than the fire service" he speaks not only as a partisan member but also from deep experience. Coan, who is also head of the state's Department of Fire Services, has been involved in fire services since the early 1970s.

Recovery Act Impact: New Bedford Fire Department

  • Total stimulus funding: $2.6 million

  • Training grant to Dept. of Fire Services: $380K

  • Provided recruit training to 44 firefighters

  • Enabled New Bedford Fire Dept to qualify for $12.2M SAFER grant

For Coan, the training of firefighters is of paramount importance and the Fire Services' Massachusetts Firefighting Academy is a crucial element of the state's effort to fight fire. The Academy trains approximately 10,000 firefighters a year and according to Coan the formula is simple: "Better trained firefighters can reduce losses."

Firefighters at the MA Firefighters Academy
That is why the stimulus-funded training program that was provided to New Bedford firefighters was so significant to Coan. It was also significant to New Bedford's fire department and to the citizens it keeps safe.

New Bedford's fire department was initially able to hire 33 firefighters under its first grant from the stimulus program. The funds were crucial to the city's department, struggling to maintain its ranks through the economic downturn. As that grant wound down, the fire department was eligible to receive a $12.2 million Staffing For Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant which would enable it to retain those 33 firefighters and hire an additional 34.

Firefighters at the MA Firefighters Academy
But, according to New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes, his department was in danger of losing the grant because one if its requirements is to train the recruits to Firefighter One level within 90 days of hire. "We didn't have the resources for the training," said Gomes.

A stimulus grant of $380K to the Department of Fire Services enabled the Firefighting Academy to train these recruits, as well as additional recruits from Fall River for a total of 44 in the class. "The stimulus money is going to excellent use," said Coan. "There is a real issue of firefighter safety and not being able to train firefighters puts them at risk and their communities at risk."

The training the recruits undergo at the Academy replicates nearly every scenario these firefighters will face in real life - from entering a burning building to searching for people in a fiery blaze to dealing with car fires. The recruits must pass a

Firefighters at the MA Firefighters Academy
physical test and have classroom training as well. It's a rigorous course and according to Gomes, "these will be the finest trained group we've had."

Edmund Walker, Director of the Firefighting Academy, notes that the rigor is necessary to ensure that the firefighters are prepared for what they will face. "The purpose of the training is to prevent fatalities."