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Grants awarded to grow firefighting forces

Three fire districts and two nonprofit organizations in Nassau County have received grants from New York State totaling $50,000 to aid in recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters, officials said.

A $25,000 grant is to be split between the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund and the Nassau County Junior Firefighters Association, said Tom Devaney, director of operations with JSK Public Safety, a company in Williston Park that writes grant applications.

The fund is expected to use the money for scholarships and to train firefighters on policies and national standards. The junior firefighters association plans to use the money to advertise their program online, on television and in newspapers, said Jerry Presta, chairman of the Junior Firefighters Association board.

"These kids get exposed to the fire department early on," Devaney said. "That way, when they come on board, they almost have a step up on someone who walks in from the street."

The other grant for $25,000 is to help purchase three outdoor illuminated LED signs to be distributed throughout the western Nassau County fire department region to display emergency messages, as well as recruitment information, Devaney said. The signs will be placed outside of the Albertson, South Hempstead, and Bellerose Terrace fire departments, Devaney said.

Don Spatz, fire commissioner of the South Hempstead Fire District, said there is always a need for more volunteer firefighters, and he hopes the signs aid in recruitment.

"You get the younger ones coming out of high school and coming into the fire department for a period of time, then maybe going to local college or going to college away," Spatz said. "Then you have the senior firefighters that no longer can respond to interior firefighting. There's always constant change within the fire service."

The money is coming from the New York State Recruitment and Retention Grant program, which is funded through voluntary contributions on New York State tax returns.

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