Police/Fire, Politics

Olszewski announces $1 million in grants to Baltimore County volunteer fire companies

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UPDATE: Additional details on these grants is available here.

Original story below…

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TOWSON, MD—County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Tuesday announced the allocation of $1 million in grants to Baltimore County’s volunteer fire companies, which are a key component of the County’s public safety infrastructure. The funds will come from the County’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation.

Our volunteers have always been an invaluable asset to the communities of Baltimore County, and never more so than at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Olszewski said. “With these grants, we further recognize the contributions made by our volunteer fire companies and are proud to provide additional funding to ensure they can continue their important work.”

Baltimore County has 29 volunteer fire companies, which are independent corporations but play a key role in the County’s emergency response services. At fires and other emergency events, volunteers work side by side with their career counterparts.

“Our firefighters never hesitate to answer the call when others are in need, even when it means putting themselves in harm’s way,” said U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Federal Team Maryland fought to pass the American Rescue Plan so our communities could advance important local priorities like bolstering public safety infrastructure. I’m glad to see County Executive Olszewski investing American Rescue Plan funds in helping Baltimore County’s volunteer fire companies recover, especially as many have struggled financially during the pandemic. These resources will strengthen first response capabilities in order to help better protect our communities.”

“Our volunteer firefighters were on the front lines throughout the pandemic, selflessly continuing to show up for shifts and save lives, even when they might have been struggling themselves financially,” Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger said. “I supported the American Rescue Plan, in part, to help our local governments and their departments recover from the pandemic and rebuild for the future and I am grateful that County Executive Olszewski is prioritizing this funding for our first responders.”

The companies will be able to use the grant funds in accordance with their individual needs, as long as the expenditures meet federal guidelines for ARP spending. Expenditures could include certain types of equipment or contributions toward the cost of emergency apparatus, for example.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Baltimore County has provided more than $1.4 million worth of support to volunteer fire companies, including contributions of PPE, EMS equipment and other supplies.

“Baltimore County has one of the largest combined fire services in the nation,” said Baltimore County Fire Department Chief Joanne Rund. “About 3,000 volunteer responders work alongside our career personnel to provide EMS, fire suppression and rescue services. They play a vital role in our ability to serve and protect our constituents. We know this financial support will help them fulfill the mission we all share.”

“The Volunteers worked tirelessly before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Baltimore County Volunteer Firefighter’s Association President Thomas Ludwig, “and this support is another indicator of the appreciation Baltimore County has for its Volunteer Fire, Rescue, and EMS personnel.”

The County provides significant financial support each year to volunteer fire companies. In the current fiscal year, the County allocated $10.57 million to volunteer companies. Each company gets the a lump sum for their operating needs, in addition to subsidies for utilities, fuel, vehicle maintenance and EMS supplies.

Also, Olszewski included an additional $500,000 in the current fiscal year for the volunteer fire companies’ capital budget, used to fund major projects such as Fire and EMS apparatus and construction. This brought the total FY22 contribution to $1.5 million.

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