KINGSTON, R.I. — Nov. 16, 2018 — The Kingston Fire District is bolstering its efforts to attract more University of Rhode Island students to its ranks and provide new firefighters with protective pants and coats thanks to $204,100 in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The district, which operates the Kingston Volunteer Fire Department, celebrated the grant awards recently with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Congressman Jim Langevin, FEMA officials, various state elected officials, fire district and department leaders and URI administrators. The University is in the Kingston Fire Department’s jurisdiction and works closely with district officials to ensure that the department has the critical equipment necessary to protect the Kingston Campus’ 1,200 acres and 222 buildings.
Last year, the district was awarded a four-year, $168,100 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant to attract more University students to the volunteer force. The first year of the grant resulted in an increase from two to six recruits. The grant provides up to $5,000 a year per firefighter for tuition and other educational expenses reimbursement. Students who become members of the fire department are also provided a room at the firehouse at no cost.
The newest funding, from a $36,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant, will enable the district to purchase turnout gear, coats and pants with thermal protection for new firefighters. The protective coats and hats are among the most expensive pieces of equipment for an individual firefighter. The grant amount includes a $2,000 match from the district.
Reed thanked Kingston Fire Chief Nate Barrington, the Kingston Fire District, and all of its members and their supportive families. “Protecting the community, fighting fires, doing what they do, is not only about great individual firefighters but also their families,” Reed said.
He thanked the Kingston Fire District Board of Wardens, FEMA and URI representatives for their critical roles in helping the Kingston Fire Department stay equipped with cutting edge apparatus and gear. At the event, he praised Dave Parr, a regional fire program specialist for FEMA and Lance Harbour, regional fire program specialist, for their hard work in helping fire departments across Rhode Island secure grants for equipment and training.
While addressing the grant for the turnout gear, Reed said, “The chief will tell you how critical specialized gear is. You cannot send firefighters into a hazardous condition without this gear. You have to have it, but it’s very expensive.”
“Again, let me commend the department, because these are competitive grants. This department has done especially well under Chief Barrington,” Reed said.
He said all of Rhode Island has benefited strongly from the FEMA program, and that “during its 16 years, our departments in Rhode Island have received almost $90 million.”
Langevin said he was especially proud to be with the firefighters who do the job day in and day out. “This is very dangerous work. Jack had it right when he said we all go home at night and rest easy, knowing that there are first responders who when the call comes, they are going to be there to answer it. Thank you for that.”
He said the grants will go a long way to keeping the URI community safe. “The equipment you see behind me is absolutely vital for the firefighters safety and effectiveness.”
“This was a great celebration for the district, our wardens and firefighters, and our partners from Congress, the University, FEMA, state government and our families and friends,” Barrington said. “We are grateful to everyone who participated in the event for their commitment to keeping the Kingston Fire Department a top-flight emergency responder. Knowing that so many people support our mission boosts the morale of our firefighters, and it reminds them of our connections to the community. Thank you to everyone.”
The speaking program ended with the presentation of a plaque from the fire district to J. Vernon Wyman, assistant vice president for business services at URI, who is retiring after 40 years of service to the University. Over the decades, he has worked closely with the fire district to help it secure funding for essential equipment.