CORTLAND, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Cortland Fire Department has been given $421,920 in federal funding to bolster recruitment and restart their “Bunk In” Program to give college-age students firsthand experience to become firefighters.

The funding was given to them by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program.

This isn’t the first town in Central New York that has been given this generous amount of funding to train the next generation as last month $4.5 million in federal funding was split between the cities of Fulton, Jamestown and New Rochelle to hire more firefighters.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced on March 14 that this funding will help train future firefighters in Cortland to keep the community safe.

Schumer is currently leading the charge to save these federal firefighting programs that are set to expire at the end of this year which delivered this funding to Cortland.

“From being on the frontline during Covid to fighting fires, our Cortland firefighters work non-stop to keep our communities safe. So I am proud to deliver this major over $400,000 federal boost so Cortland strengthen recruitment and give youth firsthand experience to help train the next generation of firefighters,” said Senator Schumer. “I’ve fought my whole career to bring more federal resources to support our brave firefighters and today’s funding will keep the Cortland Fire Department prepared to take on any emergency.”

Historically, Cortland’s “Bulk In” program has been very successful for Cortland FD and there are currently a number of career firefighters who started as “bunkers,” including Captain Will Fox.

This grant will also fund social media training, marketing training, and website redesign to help better recruit volunteer firefighters, as well as improvements to program coordination and management.  

“We appreciate Senator Schumer’s support and advocacy in securing this funding, as well as his work on the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response programs. These programs have had a tremendous impact locally by allowing the Cortland Fire Department to increase critical fire protection services in our community. The funding secured here today will increase safety for firefighters and residents by putting more firefighters on first-arriving equipment,” said City of Cortland Chief of Fire Wayne Friedman.

Schumer originally created the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program in 1999, which later expanded to also include the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program, which funded Cortland’s grant today.

The AFG and SAFER grant programs are awarded on a competitive basis to the applicants that most closely address the program’s priorities and demonstrate financial need.