Tester Announces Resources to Recruit New Firefighters in Helena

(Billings, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester has secured more than $300,000 to help Helena’s Eastgate Volunteer Fire Department recruit and retain needed firefighters and first responders.

“Volunteering time and effort to help ensure the safety of the community is a profound gift and a great sacrifice,” Tester said. “The very least we can do is ensure these volunteers have the training and resources they need to respond to emergencies quickly, safely, and effectively.”

Tester secured these resources after recent reports that the Eastgate Volunteer Fire Department has been grappling with a decline in volunteers.

The funding comes from FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program, which provides training and recruitment resources to professional and volunteer fire departments across the country.

“This grant will help Eastgate VFD and the surrounding volunteer fire departments provide better customer service to our community and improve response to 991 dispatched events,” said Susan Mergenthaler, Chair of the Eastgate Volunteer Fire District’s Board of Trustees. “There are 10,000 firefighters in Montana, 96% are volunteers. We ask volunteers for their time and heart. Rewards of helping others and working with a great crew is all the volunteer receives.”

Earlier this month the Senate unanimously passed Tester’s bipartisan bill to reauthorize the SAFER Grant Program, which is set to expire in January 2018. The bill now heads to the House for approval.

Last year, Montana fire departments received more than $2 million through the grant programs Tester’s bill would reauthorize, including fire departments in Missoula, Paradise Valley, Livingston, Deer Lodge, and Great Falls.