State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen recently announced the new Kansas Firefighter Recruitment and Safety Grant program.

State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen recently announced the new Kansas Firefighter Recruitment and Safety Grant program. The program is designed to help volunteer and part-time fire departments across the state with firefighter recruitment.

The grants are intended to help cover costs of safety gear for new firefighters and physical examinations for firefighters whose physicals are not covered by their departments. It will also provide funds for the purchase of new washer-extractor machines used to clean bunker gear following a fire to prevent the transfer of carcinogens, particulates and biohazards to firefighters, with further funds available for the creation of Explorer programs to attract youth volunteers into the fire service.

Galva Fire Chief Wayne Williams said his is one of nine volunteer departments in McPherson County and that they have applied for grants in the past to help offset the costs of running the departments and will apply for the KFRSG program grants in the near future.

Volunteer and part-time fire departments face recruitment and retention challenges, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, because they do not have the funding to provide safety equipment. Without new equipment provided by the recruiting fire department, potential volunteers are faced with not only donating their time, but also providing their own safety gear, sharing gear with others, or doing without.

Departments will have to prove a need for safety gear items such as bunker gear, fire helmets, fire boots, and new masks for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus units for new department members.

According to the OSFM, in the last year alone, the last four line-of-duty deaths in the Kansas Fire Service resulted from heart attacks before and after responses to fire calls or during training. Providing grants to facilitate physical examinations for firefighters can help spot health problems before the volunteers are put under the stress and strain of an emergency situation.

The KFRSG program caught the eye of Marquette Fire Chief Jim Unruh, who heads a staff of 24 volunteer firefighters.

"Yes, we're working on it," Unruh said. "We've been, in the last couple of months, trying to take advantage of any grants we can find. We've got so much stuff that we need. We're working on trucks, we need hose, we need safety equipment, we need bunker gear. Volunteer departments, we skimp by and do the best we can."

The main goal for the KFRSG program is firefighter recruitment. The grants will help provide funding for the start of Explorer programs, which offers a great way for local fire departments to give the youth of their area an opportunity to explore both career and voluntary opportunities in the fire service, according to the OSFM. Volunteer and part-time fire departments will be able to apply for funding to cover the initiation fees for the Explorer program or the National Volunteer Fire Council National Junior Firefighter Program, plus a $100 start-up fund.

Applications for the KFRSG program are available at www.FireMarshal.ks.gov/KFRSG. The deadline for submission to receive funds during this budget year (July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017) is October 3, and funding will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.