Tester Announces $450,000 to Help Local Fire Departments in Park and Missoula Counties

(Great Falls, Mont.)-Just a week after securing $300,000 in funding for four Montana fire departments, Senator Jon Tester announced today that the Paradise Valley Fire Service and the Missoula Rural Fire District will receive more than $450,000 in federal funding to help them recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and EMTs.

“Rural fire departments are sustained in large part by their communities,” Tester said. “And while that can do a lot, this kind of outside support really helps bolster their recruitment and training efforts so they can continue to protect our families and communities.”

The funding comes from the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants Program, which is administered by FEMA. These grants provide professional and volunteer fire departments across the country with funding to help them increase the number of trained first responders in their communities.

The Paradise Valley Fire Service will receive $358,592 to mount a volunteer recruitment campaign in the Park County area.

“One of our greatest needs is for more volunteers,” said Greg Coleman, the Fire Warden of Park County. “But our fire department currently doesn’t have the time or resources to mount an extensive recruiting effort, so this money will be used to create a dedicated program to recruit and retain volunteers.”

The Missoula Rural Fire District (MRFD) will receive $97,000 in funding, which they plan to put towards their Resident Firefighter Program. The MRFD employs a combination of career and volunteer firefighters, and their Resident Firefighter Program allows 12 local college students to live and work in one the District’s four fire houses for free.

“We really appreciate all their time and hard work,” said Fire District Chief Bill Colwell. “So we like to be able to help them fund their education through a small yearly stipend, and this grant will allow us to triple that stipend while also expanding the program from two to potentially four years.”

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Tester has been a strong supporter of the SAFER Grant Program, securing $670 million in funding for the SAFER and Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Programs last year and successfully fighting for a $10 million increase in funding this year.

Ultimately, Tester believes these programs are critical to keeping rural communities safe and self-reliant-a sentiment echoed by Park County Commissioner Marty Malone.

“We are a rural community, but we have just as great a need for first response and emergency services,” said Malone. “This grant will allow us to be self-dependent in that regard, so we don’t have to rely on resources from the surrounding areas to keep our folks safe.”