By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Truth be told, fires in Keizer are a fairly infrequent occurrence, but when a big blaze ignites all of the fire district resources are tapped. The renewal of a federal grant will make certain all Keizer Fire District personnel are prepared.

“The important part is that this isn’t a new grant for us, but one that was renewed because we were good stewards of the initial grant,” said Jeff Cowan, chief of the Keizer Fire District.

Keizer Fire District

District officials applied for the initial $148,924 grant in 2006 and it was renewed for $208,540 last week. The grant, part of the  Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program (SAFER), supplies funds that enhance the district’s ability to recruit and train volunteers.

“The volunteers are essential to our operation and this grant will make sure that their adequately trained and prepared to carry out their duties,” Cowan said.

Grant funding will cover the salary for a part-time volunteer coordinator, scholarships to the National Fire Academy, college scholarships, advertising, insurance premiums, in investment incentive program and physical examinations, which constitute the largest portion of the grant at $68,400. Without the grant, such costs would need to come out of some other part of the district’s budget.

“This funding will help the Keizer Fire District train our local firefighters in their mission to combat fire and save lives,” said Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Ore., 1), who represents the Keizer area.

The Keizer Fire District was one of 17 grants approved for the initial release of money and one of only two department approved for the grant on the West Coast.

Participation in the grant program also means the district can apply for reimbursements for turnout gear and personal protection equipment when new recruits join the district. Turnout gear, a helmet, hood, boots and gloves for just one recruit can amount to nearly $12,000.

“SAFER grants allow us to create an enticing recruit package that can lead to full-time careers for some individuals,” said Cowan. “The one thing it doesn’t quite get at is how much fun and how rewarding a career [in the fire service] can be. Once we get a recruit out there helping their community and giving back it’s addictive.”