Fire department in Calif. awarded nearly $1M for paramedic training

The Stockton Fire Department plans to train more of its firefighters as paramedics through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant


Cassie Dickman
The Record, Stockton, Calif.

STOCKTON, Calif. — The Stockton Fire Department has been awarded nearly $1 million in federal grant money to train more of its firefighters to become paramedics.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the Fire Department the 2018 Assistance to Firefighters Grant in September. A formal ceremony to present a check of $958,000 was held Thursday morning at the department's Station 2 firehouse.

FEMA Administration Fire Grant team member Eve Birge, left, and FEMA Region 9 administrator Bob Fenton present Stockton Fire Chief Richard Edwards, center, and Stockton City Manager Harry E. Black with a ceremonial check during Thursday’s news conference.
FEMA Administration Fire Grant team member Eve Birge, left, and FEMA Region 9 administrator Bob Fenton present Stockton Fire Chief Richard Edwards, center, and Stockton City Manager Harry E. Black with a ceremonial check during Thursday’s news conference. (Photo/Clifford Oto, The Record)

"This money is going to be extremely helpful for our community to replenish those paramedics that we've lost to continue to provide that high level of service that our community has come to depend upon," said Stockton Fire Chief Richard Edwards.

California is experiencing a statewide firefighter paramedic shortage, making recruiting new paramedics difficult, Edwards said. The Stockton Fire Department has lost 10 paramedics in just the past four months due to retirements, attrition and resignations to work elsewhere.

"There's such a shortage out there of experienced paramedics, other fire departments are coming in and taking those experienced paramedics for their own organizations," Edwards said.

Ten firefighters already working for the department will start paramedics training next month thanks to this influx of funding, Edwards said. The training lasts about 13 months and will be provided by the Northern California Training Institute.

"As our call volume continues to increase, so does the need for paramedics," Edwards said. "Over 50 percent of our calls for service involve some sort of EMS-related service."

Last year was the department's busiest year on record, with Stockton firefighters responding to more than 51,000 emergencies, according to Stockton Fire Department statistics. That's about 2,000 more than in 2018.

There is no official data explaining why call volume has continued to increase in recent years, but Edwards says it's likely the result of two things.

"What I would assume is that it happens to do with our increased population," Edwards said. "We have an aging population, too, as people are continuing to live longer. So they need more of those medical services as they grow older."

FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Program has doled out approximately $7.1 billion in grants to first-responder organizations since the program's inception in 2001, said Eve Birge, fire grant management specialist of FEMA Region 9, which includes California.

The AFG Program provides funding for purchasing life-saving equipment from respirators to firetrucks, training, conducting research and outreach, and to protect emergency personnel and the public from fire and related hazards, said Robert Barker, FEMA Region 9 public affairs specialist.

It's important to support firefighters because they are often the first to arrive on scene for any emergency, said Bob Fenton, FEMA regional administrator. They're also really plugged into their communities and are the ones that help them to prepare for possible disasters.

"I think we think fire, but really most events are injury events and if it's not a direct injury ... then they're taking care of the firefighters that are fighting the fire," Fenton said. "Having this capability on the fire engine is critical for this area."

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©2020 The Record (Stockton, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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