Liz McCormick Published

$830,000 Federal Grant Comes to Berkeley County at the Right Time


The Berkeley County Fire Service Board received a federal grant last week to help recruit and train more volunteer firefighters.

The Berkeley County Fire Service Board received a SAFER grant, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response. The grant comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Over $830,000 was awarded, and apparently it came at just the right time.

Julie Rivard is the Administrative Director for the Berkeley County Fire Service Board. She says this grant is important because the population in Berkeley County keeps growing.

“With all of that population increase and business increase – it increases the demand or the need for emergency services,” Rivard explained.

This grant will allow the board to take over recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters, which historically has been done exclusively by the fire stations.

“Being able to do this for them would greatly help them. Berkeley County has never had a structured recruitment and retention program in the past – this is the first. Many of the areas and the jurisdictions around us have it, and our population density is very similar to those jurisdictions that already have these programs in place. So these grant dollars will allow us to build a program here.”

Rivard says recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters can be tough. It’s a challenge finding the right people to take the positions.

“It’s very serious, and it takes a significant amount of skill and time. It takes a special person to want to do that and to do it continually.”

Rivard points out the vast majority of the state’s firefighters are volunteers.