Deadline approaches for Pennsylvania fire and EMS grants

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The deadline for fire and EMS companies to apply for a state grant is coming up. Gov. Tom Wolf and state officials took a moment to thank first responders while reminding them help is available. 

During the pandemic, Wolf said, EMS and fire personnel, many of them volunteers, have been on the frontlines.

"While they’re doing so much more than they've ever done before, their fundraising capacity has been restricted," he noted.

As Wolf pointed out, festivals or fairs have been cancelled or firehouse bars have been shutdown.

"It’s really important that all of us recognize, especially now, how much they're doing," he said. "We can thank them with words and I’m happy to do that, but I think we need to back that up."

According to the governor, August 7 is the deadline for fire and EMS companies to apply for $50 million in grants.

In addition to the grants, state fire commissioner Bruce Trego discussed mental health and wellness among first responders In 2017, he mentioned, 123 first reponders in Pennsylvania killed themselves. He said that's more than line-of-duty-deaths.

“So far in 2020 we've lost 63," he counted, "47 firefighters and 16 EMTs."

Trego said fire and EMS personnel train to be physically fit, and now they can get free training to help be mentally fit, while getting rid of what he calls the "suck it up, it's part of the job" mentality and realizing the emotional stress is real. Pennsylcania is offering four online courses to first responders.

"That stigma must be in the past," he said, "and we must recognize that we are all human beings, and we are not all the same in dealing with the stressors of our job."