MATTHEWS – Leaders with Matthews Fire & EMS Department are doing everything in their power to ensure Matthews residents are safe.
Matthews Fire Chief Dennis Green has been proactive in working with town staff to secure more funding for not only additional employees for the department, but also incentives to attract new volunteers and retain those who are already serving.
Working with the town’s communications director, Annette Privette Keller, the fire department submitted two grants for firefighter hiring and volunteer incentives last November, and in January received $357,693 in federal funding to hire three more firefighters for the department. This month, the department received notification of grant funding for volunteer incentives totaling more than $736,000.
“I’m somewhat surprised we were given so much money,” Green said. “I feel like (Privette Keller) and I had written a good grant and justified and showed how it would improve safety for citizens and firefighters.”
The grants are part of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA programs called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER. Altogether, Matthews Fire & EMS will receive $1,093,713 of the $320 million in total funding from FEMA this year. The volunteer grant, which will be distributed over a four-year period, will include funding of 32 sets of turnout gear; numerous college scholarships ($3,000 each); gas cards for volunteer shifts; accident, death and disability insurance; funding for a media campaign; physicals for each new recruit; and funding for uniforms, equipment and travel for the department’s Exploring Post 911 program.
Matthews was selected to receive the grants through a three-step process, Green said, which included computer scoring, peer reviews from firefighters across the country and a technical review that aligns projects with available money. Green has served as a peer reviewer for several years, he said, and has a good idea of what is expected from departments applying for the grants.
The department, which currently operates 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday with career firefighters and evenings and weekends with volunteer firefighters, saves the town money by utilizing volunteer workers, Green said.
“What we are trying to do is keep that model as long as we can,” he said. “What we were trying to address was getting more volunteers in. We lose people because they get hired somewhere else. We’re trying to figure out ways to retain people we already have, but also bring new people in.”
Green is most excited about the gas cards for volunteers because those will be distributed immediately on shift. He’s also happy volunteers will be given accident and disability insurance, he said, since firefighting can be very dangerous, and for extra funding for the department’s Exploring Post 911 education program. That program helps the department train potential volunteers at an early age.
Town renews Idlewild fire contract, amends terms
Town leaders approved an agreement Monday, Feb. 24, updating and renewing the contract with the Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department, which covers areas in both Matthews and Mint Hill.
Matthews provides about a third of funding for Idlewild Fire Department since the department assists and responds to some calls within the town’s limits, Green said.
“Basically, we’re just updating, clarifying about doing the same reports… Our whole thing here in Matthews is to improve the way we fight fire. Things have changed – we need to be attacking fires differently,” Green said.
The updates and changes to the agreement will allow Matthews Fire & EMS to better work with Idlewild on reports and performance data, required regular meetings and joint training exercises. The changes also clarify Idlewild’s commitment to staffing to reflect what is actually taking place, according to a town staff memo.
Matthews also will provide Idlewild with new software, the same as Matthews Fire & EMS, to ensure reports made within town limits are timely and in the same format. The new agreement also notes Green, as Matthews Fire & EMS chief, is responsible for all incidents within the town limits. Response and reports made by Idlewild outside of Matthews town limits fall under Mint Hill jurisdiction, Green added.
Find more information on the agreement at the town’s website, www.matthewsnc.gov.