Menendez, Booker, Sires, Bollwage Announce $5M Investment to Hire Firefighters, Protect Communities

Menendez, Booker, Sires, Bollwage Announce $5M Investment to Hire Firefighters, Protect Communities

ELIZABETH, NJ  – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Congressman Albio Sires (N.J.-08), today visited a firehouse in Elizabeth along with Mayor J. Christian Bollwage to meet with local first responders and to announce $5 million in federal funding to recruit and hire 36 more firefighters to help ensure Elizabeth’s readiness to respond to future emergencies.

“Investing in our firefighters is an investment in our own safety and the safety of our families,” said Sen. Menendez.  “This federal funding will help provide the necessary staffing so the Elizabeth Fire Department is fully prepared to respond to the next emergency, whether that be a house fire, natural disaster, or man-made disaster.”

“I was proud to help the Elizabeth Fire Department secure this critical federal funding for the first time in more than a decade,” said Sen. Booker.  “The brave firefighters we are standing with today put their lives on the line each and every day to protect our families.  In turn we need to stand up for them in providing the necessary federal resources needed to ensure their safety and the security of our communities.”

"I congratulate the Elizabeth Fire Department for pursuing this competitive grant," added Rep. Sires.  "With these additional funds, Elizabeth's fire department will continue to provide the highest level of overall safety for its residents and their neighborhoods."

The Elizabeth Fire Department has been awarded a $5.05 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, which helps local fire departments to hire, recruit and retain firefighters to ensure proper staffing levels to better protect their citizens and communities.  These grants are awarded competitively and are administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“The Elizabeth Fire Department will benefit greatly from hiring 36 new firefighters through the SAFER grant program and appreciates the opportunity to participate in this vital initiative,” said Mayor Bollwage.  “I would also like to thank Senator Menendez, Senator Booker and Congressman Sires for their support.  The more than $5 million in awarded funds will enable the ranks of the Elizabeth Fire Department to be elevated, yielding increased firefighter safety, enhanced response efforts and improved daily operations.”

From 2014 to March 2016, Elizabeth Fire Department (EFD) had a total of 22 retirements and are anticipating more.  In order to assist in bridging this uniform personnel gap, EFD requested 36 full-time career firefighters through the SAFER grant.

Modifications to state pension benefits contributed to the retirement of many uniform public safety workers in Elizabeth, leaving the EFD with a considerable personnel deficit in firefighter positions.  At the time of application, EFD was performing daily functions with 226 firefighters and that impeded efficiency and the ability to respond to events at an effective strength.

New hires will be assigned to the seven fire stations throughout the City to assist in daily response, ensure adequate number of qualified firefighters arriving on first response apparatus as well as amplify the EFD’s ability to assist in mutual aid calls.  The SAFER grant will assist the EFD in providing the most effective services to the community in regard to fire and fire-related activities.

The SAFER grant will also increase firefighter safety as well as assist in protecting critical infrastructure, which often includes high-life hazards and potentially hazardous materials.  In addition to being the Union County Seat; Terminal A of Newark Liberty International Airport, which the EFD is responsible for responding under the Mutual Aid Joint Task Force developed with the Newark Fire Department; The Mills at Jersey Gardens Mall, IKEA, as well as Trinitas Regional Medical Center are located within the City of Elizabeth.

Since 2005, New Jersey fire departments have been awarded $241.3 million in SAFER grants.

The Senators and Congressman have also supported the federal Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) program, which provides funding to ensure local firefighters are properly equipped and trained.  Since it was established in 2001, New Jersey has received $163.6 million in funding from the AFG program to enhance response capabilities, including $782,175 for Elizabeth.