TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater today announced that the Northwest Florida Volunteer Firefighter Weekend Council is receiving more than $580,000 in a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The grant will provide funding to promote training and retention of volunteer firefighters in the state.
“Being a volunteer firefighter is a demanding job,” CFO Atwater said. “In the current economic climate, it is difficult to recruit and retain volunteers. This grant recognizes the incredible sacrifice that volunteer firefighters make to keep us safe and will help increase staffing in our local fire departments.”
There are nearly 6,000 volunteers in Florida with at least a Firefighter I certification. The State Fire Marshal’s office has partnered with local fire departments, the Florida Fire and Emergency Services Foundation and Northwest Florida State College to provide no-cost training to enhance the competency of volunteer firefighters. While the training is provided at no cost, trainees have been responsible for their own expenses. The grant will allow for scholarships to cover those expenses and increase the number of trained, ‘front line’ firefighters available in communities across the state.
The grant will also assist new volunteers in completing certifications by making available some of the more difficult and expensive classes such as Live Burns, Search and Rescue and Wildland Firefighting. The State Fire Marshal anticipates adding 100 training participants per year, for each of the four years of the grant. The grant also includes funding to help educate 200 chief-level officers.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.