New state law creates volunteer firefighter equipment, training grant program

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A new state law could boost funding for volunteer fire departments.

The measure just took effect Jan. 1. It creates a program to annually award grants to volunteer fire departments to help them pay for equipment and training.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel heard from one local VFD about the new law, as well as its sponsor who calls the program a first of its kind.

Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) said it’s the first program opening the door for state dollars to go into Tennessee volunteer fire halls on a consistent basis. The impact of that could be big for the Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department.

“Our guys here and firefighters everywhere, especially volunteer firefighters, are giving their time and risking their lives to go out for nothing on these calls to help people and to help our communities. So if there is a way that we can get assistance and money coming in to help us with the equipment we need to go do our jobs, it’s very, very meaningful,” said Andersonville VFD Chief Ambrea Peters.

That’s the mission behind a new state law creating a volunteer firefighter equipment and training grant program. Half a million dollars was set aside in this year’s budget to help VFDs statewide pay for local matches to federal grants or buy new firefighting equipment.

It could be critical for Andersonville. The department operates on an approximate $100,000 annual budget, with some vital gear for all their members totaling more than that.

“Our air packs are becoming outdated and in order to replace our entire fleet, which would be about 20 is what we would need, we just had it quoted around $134,000,” Peters said.

Chief Peters threw her support behind the new prorgam and said she’s interested in taking advantage of it.

“I think it’s great and I think it’s a great step for the state to want to provide those things to the volunteer fire departments,” she said. “I think we’ll definitely be discussing it here within the fire department with our board and members and then hopefully applying and seeing what comes next.”

Rep. Hill said he expects applications for this state program to be available in the next couple of weeks. The Department of Commerce and Insurance is managing the program.

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