fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

FEMA grant will add more firefighters in Jacksonville

A student firefighter will be added to each shift for the Jacksonville Fire Department following the award of a $144,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

“This is going to allow us to bring a third person on duty. We’re a small department. Anything helps,” said Interim Fire Chief Wayne Painter. Notice of the award was received Sept. 13, and City Council approved acceptance Tuesday meeting.

“We are working out all the details with FEMA right now, making sure we follow all the procedures,” said Painter. Timing may not allow selection of students for the current school year.

Students would be enrolled in Rogue Community College classes in fire science and receive up to $5,200 per year of assistance for tuition and books. In addition, the grant will fund student uniforms, boots, gloves, facemasks and turnout sets. Turnouts cost about $2,000 per fireman.

Painter sought the funding from FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program. Under grant terms, the city cannot use the additional assistance to allow for reductions in current operations. The city is under no obligation to hire the student firefighters once they complete their training.

“It’s incredible. I wanted to get up and dance a jig, but we don’t do that at City Council,” said Mayor Paul Becker. “It’s strictly for that (program), but it’s still impressive.”

The department has six full-time employees who fill two-person shifts 24 hours per day. All firefighters are certified as emergency response medical personnel. Jacksonville currently has no student firefighters, but other districts in the Rouge Valley do, said Painter. The department has several volunteer firefighters. Residents pays a $35 surcharge on their water bill to subsidize the department.

Painter is just beginning to work with FEMA on what can be purchased with the grant. He hopes that might include a set of manuals that students could use. Money that cannot be used during the first three years would be available in a fourth year.

Students need to be 18 years old and maintain a specified GPA. On school days they will attend classes then come to the fire station for the remainder of their shift.

“The advantage for them is they are working in a paid fire department, getting on-the-job training and getting their education paid for,” said Painter. “Jacksonville is one of the smallest departments in the state of Oregon that is a paid department with paid personnel.”

RCC offers a two-year associate of applied science degree in fire science. It includes classes in emergency services, firefighting, emergency vehicles operation, communications and electives. There is also a dual degree program in fire science and paramedicine that takes three years.

Painter has secured other grants since he was named interim chief in November 2018. A 31-year veteran with the Medford Fire Department and state and federal fire agencies, Painter can work only half-time for Jacksonville because he is a state retiree.

Other grants have included:

  • A Cheney Foundation award of $6,000 for fire hoses through Engine Company No. 1, Jacksonville’s volunteer firefighting organization.
  • A West Family Foundation grant of $9,000 for purchase of turnouts for all paid fire personnel.
  • Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has awarded the department $10,000 to purchase a battery-powered Holmatro cutting extraction tool.
  • A state grant that will provide lighter-weight wildland firefighting clothing and boots for the entire department. Firefighters must don nearly 60 pounds of gear to battle structure fires. The grant is worth about $5,000.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at boomwriter@gmail.com.

A student firefighter will be added to each shift for the Jacksonville Fire Department following the award of a $144,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.