Recovery Act Impact: New Bedford Fire Department
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."
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.
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
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."