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West Hartford Fire Department Receives Homeland Security Grant for Training

West Hartford Fire Department Ladder No. 4 Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The West Hartford Fire Department was awarded a grant in the amount of $350,353.64 for fire officer training.

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Fire Department will be able to accelerate its training of fire officers thanks to a grant of more than $350,000 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Fiscal Year 2020 Assistance to Firefighters Grant program (AFG) announced last week by the office of U.S. Rep. John Larson.

West Hartford Fire Department Chief Greg Priest said training has been even more challenging during the pandemic, particularly for fire officers. The grant will allow the department to conduct “one-time robust training to bring officers up to speed at the same time,” assisting with national certification, he said, and providing all with the ability to improve service.

Departments are obligated, by OSHA and other organizations, to provide a higher level of training for supervisors, Priest said. Roughly 30 fire service officers will be able to benefit from the grant funds, he said, and will be able to receive the training – which takes roughly 14 days to complete and will take place with the assistance of the Connecticut Fire Academy – over a shorter time period.

“We will be able to improve not only service, but safety,” Priest said.

The training topics and certifications that will be provided include:

  • Fire Service Instructor
  • Fire Officer I
  • Fire Safety Officer

Priest also expressed his thanks to Capt. Adam Pacheco and former Planning/Recovery Officer Jason Erban for their dedication, commitment, and attention to detail in applying for the significant grant. “We are very, very pleased,” he said.

“Without their hard work and determination this grant would not have been possible,” Priest said, adding his thanks to Congressman John Larson, Mayor Shari Cantor, elected officials, Town Manager Matt Hart, FEMA, “and the citizens of West Hartford for their steadfast support of the fire service.”

“Our firefighters and first responders step up to the plate every day to keep us safe,” Larson said in a statement. “This funding will support crucial training programs that will enhance public safety and strengthen the ability of firefighters to do their jobs safely and effectively. These grants are awarded on a highly competitive basis across the country, so it is a testament to the great work of both departments that they will receive these funds.”

Pacheco said that with the dual role of firefighter and paramedic that the department has taken on over the past few years, fire safety training is even more critical to that all employees who will be taking on leadership roles are certified to national standards.

“A few years ago we made a shift to take on the paramedic service, and that required a shift in the type of person we hire,” Pacheco told We-Ha.com. New hires must already be trained as paramedics, but may need additional training for the firefighting role. “We need to ensure we’re providing foundational learning,” said Pacheco.

“Pursuing this grant was a way to subsidize our budget in a fiscally-responsible way,” Pacheco said. “I’m happy, elated,” he said.

“These things don’t happen in a vacuum,” said Pacheco. “While it was my pen to paper,” he said the support he received from Chief Priest and Cantor was critically important.

As part of the same program, the Manchester Fire Department was awarded a grant of $98,242.33 for operations and safety.

Manchester will use their grant for the IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program, which will ensure that training for Mayday prevention and operations are consistent among firefighters, company officers, and chief officers. West Hartford will use grant funding to support training and certification programs for their members with the assistance of the Connecticut Fire Academy.

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