Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland city volunteer firefighters perform yearly maintenance on fire hydrants Thursday. From left are Pat Sherman of Cortland, Anthony Malmquist of Cincinnatus and Richard Gunn of Preble, “bunkers” who receive a stipend for working as interior firefighters for the fire department.
Cortland Fire Department considers future of ‘bunker’ program
As the city fire department faces a critical volunteer shortage, it is hoping to use unspent grant funds to extend its bunker program, which provides a housing stipend to volunteer firefighters who work 30 hours of shifts a week.
The program, funded by a $535,598 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is set to expire in April, said Fire Chief Charles Glover. But the department hopes to use some of the grant money that has not been spent to keep the program going into 2016, Glover said.
The department is waiting for FEMA to pay current costs of the program so it can be determined how much money will be left over and how long the program could continue to be funded, he said.
If there is enough money to continue the program through 2016 as the department hopes, FEMA would have to extend the time on the grant since it is scheduled to expire in 2015, Glover said.
Glover said the bunker program is a cost-effective way to staff the department with enough interior firefighters, especially during the overnight hours. Interior firefighters are those that have taken additional training to be qualified to fight fires from the inside of a burning building.
“Because manpower during the first five minutes of a fire is where we’re critically short and where the biggest impact on a fire is made,” Glover said.