Frederick County Receives $9.7 Million SAFER Grant

It will be used to hire 32 additional fire fighters.

L-R Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin; Chief Tom Coe; County Executive Jessica Fitzwater; Representative David Trone; IAFF VP Billy Rusamond.  (Photo from Frederick County Government)

Frederick, Md (KM) Frederick County is receiving a federal grant to hire more fire fighters. During  a Friday news conference, County Executive Jessica Fitzwater announced that the county is getting $9,732,102.08 from the US Department of Homeland Security.  “This award is the largest allocated to a Maryland fire service to date this year, and will be dedicated to hiring additional fire fighters for our Division of Fire and Rescue Services and increase our crew size,” she said.

The county is getting this money under the SAFER–or Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response,–program.

On hand for the announcement was Chief Tom Coe, the Director of the Division of Fire and Rescue Services. “The award of this $9.7 million SAFER will provide three years of funding for 32 additional fire fighters,” he said. “This represents the second phase of a three-step plan to transition from three to four-person staffing  on our fire suppression units.”

Increasing engine and ladder truck crews from three to four people was one of the recommendations from an external review panel which was set up following the line-of-duty death of Battalion Chief Joshua Laird. He died on August 11th, 2021 while battling a house fire on Ball Road in Ijamsville.

Chief Coe said a four-person crew can make a difference. “In our business, time can mean the difference between life and death. And four-person staffing is scientifically proven to perform more efficiently in more critical tasks like search and rescue, and putting water  on the fire, “he said.

On hand for the announcement was US Senator Ben Cardin who said he and other members Maryland  Congressional Delegation   were able to secure this grant. “We work together to bring as much partnerships and resources to the people of Maryland that we possibly can,” he said. “And when you look at the results, Maryland is punching way above its weight because we work together.”

Also on hand was Senator Chris Van Hollen. “We do believe that we have a duty, a duty to support those who are putting their lives at risk for the rest of us,:” he said.

In the audience on Friday was Sarah Laird, the widow of Joshua Laird.

The funding to hire 32 new fire fighters will bring the Division of Fire and Rescue Services to 633 operational career fire fighters. Frederick County’s  combined career service also includes 500 volunteers with 30 fire and rescue stations.

By Kevin McManus