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Firefighter grant approved, $732,500 awarded

COMMERCE – The Commerce Fire Department is awarded more than $732,000 in grant funding to develop a program to increase the level of volunteer firefighters.

Fire Chief Brian McNevin says he received confirmation of the funding by U.S. Senator John Cornyn this week. The City applied for the grant last September.

The grant will be distributed over a four year period at roughly $183,000 per year. The fifth year and any subsequent years would need to be funded by the city, with A&M-Commerce agreeing to cover $50,000 of those yearly costs, to go toward the educational reimbursement portion of the grant.

The university will work to develop a scholarship for incoming students interested in fighting fires.

McNevin says he hopes to have 18 people in place by June 1, depending on when they receive the funding. Six of those positions would include state certified firefighters/EMT's. The remaining crew members would come through training, such as through programs for Commerce High School seniors.

The initial four-year grant is through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security SAFER (Staffing Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) program. Commerce FD sought the funds after volunteer firefighter participation diminished to a level that presented a safety risk for those on scene.