Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation Receives Federal Grant

It will be used to help reduce fire fighter line-of-duty deaths.

Emmitsburg, Md. (KM)  Maryland’s Congressional Delegation announced this week that the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation is receiving a federal grant totaling $1.4-million dollars. “The funds are specifically going to be used to help reduce  fire fighter deaths and injuries around the country,” says Chief Ron Siarnicki, the Executive Director of the Foundation.

The Fire Prevention and Safety Grant comes form the US Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance for Fire Fighters Grant program. It will be used to continue and expand the Foundation’s “Everybody Goes Home” effort which is an on line and distance education program.

Siarnicki says fire fighter line-of-duty deaths have been decreasing in recent years. “I’m happy to say that in the past ten years, that number has reduced by 26% nationwide,” he says. “Still a lot more work to do, but it’s a positive step in the right direction.”

He says on average every 78 hours a fire fighter loses his or her life in the line of duty.

“Everybody Goes Home” was created by the Foundation to help reduce those deaths. Siarnicki says 16 initiatives have been developed to get fire fighters to be safe when they’re out on an emergency call. He says the Foundation has been gradually bringing these practices on line over the past couple of years.

“So we’re doing work in the field of behavioral health which involves the post-traumatic stress issues that are within all of public safety because they see some of the worst in our community, the trauma and the grief,” he says. “Dealing with things like substance abuse, stressors of providing services, really to help those fire fighters be healthier and survive some of the mental health issues that are out there.”

Siarnicki says fire fighters have a much higher chance of getting cancer compared to the rest of the population. “There’s a lot of research that’s been done relative to the carcinogens that are in the byproducts of combustion in the smoke and the ash,” he says. “We’re also seeing it from engine exhaust, gasoline engines that are in stations. Also, whether it’s hazardous materials incident, some of the exposure to the toxins that we face in responding to the problems that people in our communities have.”

A number of fire departments, including Frederick County, have safety officers who respond to fires and other emergencies to make sure all personnel are safe. “Incident commander is engaged in managing the actual operations. But there are some many moving parts to fire response and emergency medical services, and haz mat that it’s good to have another set of eyes and ears to see what’s going on, and be able to support that incident commander with good data and good decision making,” says Siarniciki.

Since 2001, Maryland fire departments and Emergency Medical Services units have received almost $195-million in fire grant funding, according to a news release from the State’s Congressional Delegation.