Casey Backs Wilkes-Barre Effort to Hire Firefighters

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is supporting Wilkes-Barre’s application for a federal grant to ensure that the fire department is adequately staffed to protect the safety of the city’s residents. Over the past nine years, twenty firefighters have retired, but the city has only had enough funding to replace five of them.

“Firefighters keep Wilkes-Barre safe and protect the community from a variety of threats,” said Senator Casey. “I’m backing the city’s application for this grant so that residents have the protections they deserve.”

In a letter to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Senator Casey made the case that an adequately staffed fire department is essential to public safety, citing the assistance firefighters provided the community during the record flooding last year.

“Although the City is protected by a levee system, the Fire Department was charged with the evacuation of 18,000 of the city's 43,000 residents, which is a task that underscores the need for adequate staffing of the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department,” Senator Casey wrote.

Senator Casey’s letter to FEMA is below:

Mr. W. Craig Fugate

Administrator

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Dear Mr. Fugate:

It is my understanding that the City of Wilkes-Barre has submitted an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER).  The purpose of this letter is to express my support for this proposal and urge you to give it full and fair consideration.

I am informed that the City of Wilkes-Barre Fire Department will use the SAFER funding to replace four firefighters lost through attrition.  I have been further informed that over the past nine years, twenty firefighters have retired and due to the economic downturn in the City, the Department has only been able to afford to replace five positions.  I understand that the additional firefighters will help the Department respond more efficiently and effectively to the fire and emergency responses throughout the community. 

Further, in September of 2011 the City of Wilkes-Barre was threatened by flooding along the Susquehanna River.  Although the City is protected by a levee system, the Fire Department was charged with the evacuation of 18,000 of the city's 43,000 residents.  This critical function underscores the need for adequate staffing of the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department.     

Thank you in advance for the consideration of my views.  Please include this letter in the official record of the application.  Consistent with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, I also respectfully request that you keep me informed of the status of this grant application. 

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator