President Biden Announces $22.4 Million Grant to Reopen Shuttered Fire Companies in Philadelphia

11 December 2023

Grant will fund additional firefighters’ salaries, reopen three shuttered fire companies, and support new trainees

President Joe Biden will meet with firefighters in Philadelphia on Monday to mark the receipt of a $22.4 million federal grant awarded to the Philadelphia Fire Department. The grant will fund additional firefighters’ salaries, reopen three shuttered fire companies, and support the training of new recruits. The visit is a testament to Biden’s support for the firefighting community and will pay tribute to the victims of a tragic fire in Fairmount in 2022. The grant will allow the reopening of Ladder 1, a fire company that was decommissioned nearly 15 years ago, along with Engine 6 and Ladder 11.

Reopening Ladder 1 and the Impact of the Grant

Ladder 1, located in Fairmount, was decommissioned in 2008, but thanks to the federal grant, it will be reopened. The grant will also fund the reopening of Engine 6 and Ladder 11, which were decommissioned over 14 years ago. The funding will support the salaries and benefits of 72 firefighters for three years and enable the training of a new class of recruits at the Philadelphia Fire Academy. The reopening of these fire companies will not only enhance the safety of the citizens of Philadelphia but also provide support to the firefighters who put their lives at risk.

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The Tragic Fairmount Rowhouse Fire and the Call for Funding

The tragic Fairmount rowhouse fire in 2022 claimed the lives of 12 people, including nine children. It was later revealed that the fire likely started when a 5-year-old boy lit a Christmas tree ablaze in a unit without working smoke detectors. Following the incident, Mike Bresnan, the leader of IAFF Local 22, informed President Biden that if Ladder 1 had not been decommissioned, it would have been the closest ladder truck to the scene and would have responded to the call. Bresnan urged the president to secure funding to bring the fire company back into service. The grant’s announcement fulfills Biden’s promise to support the firefighting community and demonstrates his commitment to delivering on his word.

The History of Ladder 1 and Efforts to Reactivate Shuttered Fire Companies

The closure of Ladder 1 and six other fire companies in 2009 was a cost-cutting measure during the Great Recession and a significant budget shortfall in the city. However, the firefighters’ union strongly opposed the closures, and their leaders have since worked alongside local officials to advocate for federal resources to reopen the shuttered companies. Ladder 1, in particular, has been a point of contention, especially after the deadly Fairmount fire, which occurred just a mile away.

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Biden’s Support for Firefighters and the National Union’s Endorsement

President Biden has consistently prioritized funding and support for firefighters throughout his political career. His commitment to the cause earned him the endorsement of the national firefighters’ union in the 2020 election. Biden has allocated significant funding to support firefighters, including $350 billion in the American Rescue Plan for states and cities to keep firefighters on the job. He also expanded the FEMA assistance grant and SAFER grant programs, providing $360 million each. While the national firefighters’ union has not yet endorsed a candidate for the 2024 election, they acknowledge Biden’s track record of advocating for increased funding and resources for firefighters.

Conclusion: President Biden’s announcement of a $22.4 million federal grant to reopen shuttered fire companies in Philadelphia is a significant step towards improving the safety of the city and supporting its firefighters. The grant will fund additional salaries, reopen three decommissioned fire companies, and enable the training of new recruits. Biden’s visit to Philadelphia not only demonstrates his support for the firefighting community but also pays tribute to the victims of the tragic Fairmount fire. The reopening of these fire companies is a testament to the power of federal funding and the impact it can have on local communities.

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