Federal grant money aimed to help fire stations get recruitment numbers up on hold due to shutdown

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MILLERSVILLE, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- The partial government shutdown is putting a halt in federal grant funding used to support fire stations looking to advertise and increase recruitment numbers in Lancaster County.

The grant money is used to help nearly 67 stations across the county.

"We advertise, we get a bill, we pay the bill and then we get reimbursed from the federal government," said Duane Hagelgans, spokesperson with Lancaster County Fire Chiefs Association.“The issue is when are we going to be reimbursed now?” he added.

FEMA, which funds those grants, isn't fully up and running which is creating problems for fire stations in need of volunteers.

"All of the sudden we have a situation where we are out over twenty thousand dollars at this point," said Hagelgans. “We don’t have the money to continue to pay for the advertising and we don’t know when we will get the money," he added.

According to officials. in 2018, advertising brought in an additional 70 volunteer firefighters.

“We’re really struggling to maintain the volunteer fire service and the ability to bring in new people in is important, so this money that we are using to market is a way for us to get people excited and involved," he added.

However, it's not just getting recruitment numbers up that is a problem.

For fire stations like Blue Rock Fire Rescue in Lancaster County, that grant money helps the station get important equipment.

“We’re getting a CBA the self breathing apparatus that you see firefighters wearing on their face when going into a burning building," said Ann Harach with Blue Rock Fire Rescue.

However, with the shutdown still going, they've had to put that purchase on hold.

“We are kind of working against a clock right now because in the next couple of months that equipment will have expired for us," added Harach.

 “It’s truly become a safety issue because the fire service is dwindling and we’re not bringing new people in." said Hagelgans. "Now we don’t have the backing of this grant that we were guaranteed," he added.

Volunteer fire companies throughout the state of Pennsylvania face the same problem with federal grant money.

FOX43 did reach out to FEMA for comment, however due to the shutdown, they were unable to give us a direct response.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.