Reading Receives Over $4 Million to Hire Firefighters

Senator Wrote to Feds Asking Them to Approve Grant for Reading

City Will be Able to Rehire 30 Firefighters With Federal Funds

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today announced that the City of Reading will receive $4,0006,650 to rehire 30 firefighters. Earlier this year Senator Casey wrote to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to urge them to award Reading this grant.

“Reading has a need for more firefighters and these federal funds will ensure that there are more first responders in the region,” Casey said. “I urged DHS to approve this grant so Reading’s citizens can have the peace of mind in knowing that more first responders will be on the job. This grant will create jobs and improve public safety in Reading.”

Earlier this year, Senator Casey wrote a letter to the Assistant Administrator for DHS/FEMA Program Preparedness pushing for the grant’s approval. Senator Casey noted that Reading’s high population density coupled with a large number of older wooden homes puts the city at especially high risk of rapidly spreading fires.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant will help Reading keep its residents safe and also protect firefighters from entering burning structures alone, which is a result of reduced staffing levels.

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:

Ms. Elizabeth M. Harman

Assistant Administrator

DHS/FEMA Program Preparedness

Dear Ms. Harman:

It is my understanding that the City of Reading's Department of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS) has submitted an application (EMW-2012-FH-00197) to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grant.  The purpose of this letter is to express my support for this proposal and urge you to give it full and fair consideration.

Census Bureau data currently indicate that Reading has the largest share of residents living in poverty of any city in the U.S. with a population of 65,000 or more. I have been informed that the Department is ranked as the third busiest in Pennsylvania because of the City's population increase.  I am further informed that the City's high population density coupled with the large number of older wooden framed row homes have contributed to rapidly spreading fires.  As it appears, all these factors have put tremendous strain on the DFRS budget.

I understand the DFRS will use this funding to rehire 30 firefighters who were lost through attrition since 2010. I have been advised that current staffing levels require firefighters to enter structural fires by themselves to begin fire attack and rescue operations.  The Department has pointed out that this practice is contrary to national standards and has tragically led to a high number of firefighter injuries.  I am further advised that as a result of budget cuts the Department has been forced to close two engine companies.  This has caused the Department to drop their minimum shift staffing from 22 to 18.  The Department has also experienced a substantial decrease in its volunteer force, which has dropped from over 200 to 3.  This funding will undoubtedly help the City of Reading's Department of Fire and Rescue Services serve its residents in a safer and more effective manner.

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

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