Tucson Fire has been awarded two major federal grants to help support its operations and improve service delivery to the residents and visitors of Tucson. The first award, a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, will provide a total of $5.4 million over a three-year period to help with the payment of firefighter salaries and benefits. Under normal grant guidelines, SAFER awards would require the City to add more firefighters to the department, and there would be a requirement for an escalating locality fund match plus a requirement that the new positions be maintained by the City for a specified period of years following the end of the grant award period. For the 2020 awards, however, DHS/FEMA altered the grant guidance and allowed localities to apply for federal assistance for public safety personnel costs without having to add positions and without a locality matching funds requirement. This approximate $1.8 million per year award will allow Tucson Fire to use other existing General Fund budget money on other programs and initiatives for the next three years.
The second award is an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) of $1.38 million. This grant was awarded based on Tucson Fire’s application to hold a 20-person paramedic training certification class. As a fire-based EMS agency, Tucson Fire needs to expand its numbers of paramedic firefighters to keep pace with increased service delivery demands. The grant, which does come with a 10% locality match requirement, will cover the costs of tuition and related education materials for 20 Tucson firefighters, and it will also cover all associated overtime costs that will be incurred by the department while those 20 firefighters dedicate their full-time effort to becoming certified National Registry paramedics. Their training will start in early 2021, and they will be completed with both their classroom studies and clinical rotations by the end of September 2021, per the conditions of the grant.
Tucson Fire Chief Chuck Ryan stated, “This a significant win not only for Tucson Fire, but more importantly for our City and those we serve. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to be creative, innovative, and flexible with our General Fund budget, but the emergency service needs for the City of Tucson have not diminished” he said. “For an urban department of our size to receive two awards of this magnitude in the same grant award cycle is truly noteworthy, and we are committed, as always, to being excellent stewards of the taxpayers’ money both on the local level and from federal sources. We appreciate the support of City leadership for the approval to pursue these funds. Tucson Fire will be a better department as a result of these awards, and we will be a safer City as a result of these awards.”
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero offered these words, “The pandemic challenged every City department to do more with less, and Tucson Fire has done a great job at serving Tucsonans during this critical time,” she said. “The grants received will go a long way in supporting our firefighters while ensuring they have the training they need to continue to serve our community.”
Tucson Fire is an all-hazards emergency response agency providing fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials mitigation, and technical rescue response with a staffing level of 632 firefighters serving the City of Tucson and surrounding automatic aid areas from 22 strategically-located fire stations.