Some Rethinking SAFER Grants as Revenue Shrinks

Tightening local government revenue income means coming up with grant share is more difficult.

The members of Ohio's Erie County Firefighter's Association received notice that they would be receiving $44,000 in SAFER funds in September of 2006. Now in their third year, they have been using the money to keep local firefighters educated and advancing up the company ladder.

"We've been getting our guys into higher level areas, not just doing training that's hands-on, so they can start getting their degrees," says Rudy Ruiz of the Sandusky Fire Department.

He said that every year, for four years, one firefighter from each of his community's 11 combination or volunteer fire departments is awarded $1,000 towards tuition.

He said participants can use the money on any classes directly related to the business of firefighting -- such as fire science or EMS. Or they can take classes that would be helpful to them as they more up the ranks, such as business administration or accounting.

He said local universities have been very accepting of the program.

"We've had universities come to us, which was nice," he said. That way, if a firefighter couldn't make it to the school due to scheduling conflicts, school came to them. They came to local departments and set up classes there.

Ruiz said overall, he is happy with the program. He said they have had 20 applicants, and their original goal was 35.

"It's been pretty successful," he said.