SECAUCUS - U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) today was joined by Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli and Fire Chief George Schoenrock at the Secaucus September 11 Memorial to announce that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded a new federal Firefighter Investment Response Enhancement (FIRE) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) to the Secaucus Fire Department in the amount of $61,071.
The grant, made through the Fire Prevention & Safety program (FP&S) and the only funding awarded to New Jersey in this cycle, will be used to purchase a trailer that will serve as a mobile classroom to teach fire prevention and safety techniques to school children and seniors.
“Fire prevention starts in the home and providing residents the proper training to keep their families safe is critical,” said Pascrell, who introduced the original FIRE Act in March 1999. “The FIRE Act was written here in northern New Jersey with the purpose of helping communities like Secaucus improve public safety and support their first responders. For too long, the federal government turned a deaf ear to the pressing needs of fire safety. This grant demonstrates that through the FIRE Act, we have changed that shortsighted policy. I commend the Secaucus Fire Department on its application and its commitment to the safety of local residents."
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, a volunteer firefighter who previously served as fire chief for six years, said the funding will be used to purchase a safety trailer that will be outfitted to serve as a simulated burning home. The trailer, which will be shared with surrounding communities on a rotating basis, will be used as an educational tool to teach residents how escape a burning home.
"I have been working my entire career - first as a council member, then fire chief and now mayor - to secure this grant for the the Secaucus Fire Department, to no avail," said Mayor Gonnelli. "Without Congressman Pascrell's efforts, this would have never happened and I thank him for his commitment to public safety."
Secaucus operates a full-scale fire prevention program including programs for students, senior citizens and fire safety classes throughout the entire community. The department also facilitates over 800 industrial inspections each year and is responsible for home sale inspections and the issuance of fire permits. The office is staffed by a full-time fire inspector and 3 part-time inspectors, who are all certified public safety educators.
Rep. Pascrell saw the FIRE Act signed into law by President Clinton in 2000. Since the FIRE Act and SAFER were initially authorized, in FY2001 and 2005, respectively, they have provided over $8 billion in grants to local fire departments, to hire approximately 18,500 firefighters. From FY2001-FY2010 New Jersey received nearly $200 million in grants to hire approximately 740 firefighters.
In November 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives reauthorized - with broad bipartisan support - Rep. Pascrell’s original AFG program with $1 billion per fiscal year from 2010 to 2014.