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Taxpayer funds to support firefighters

A $100,000 grant of taxpayer funds will be used to recruit, train and retain firefighters and emergency medical services personnel throughout Vermont.

The 2009-10 economic downturn and other factors have strained the ranks of volunteer firefighters and other emergency personnel.

At a news conference held in U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) office in Burlington, Kristy Oxholm, president of the Vermont State Firefighters Association, Jim Finger, president of the American Ambulance Association,Gary Dillon of the Waterbury Volunteer Fire Department, Chief Charles Cole of the Essex Volunteer Fire Department, Dean Gilmore of the New Haven Volunteer Fire Department, Chief Tom Hooker of the Pittsford Volunteer Fire Department, and Chief Jim Litevich of the Vermont Fire Academy were hand to make the announcement.

A report by the U.S. Fire Administration described volunteer emergency services as a "tradition in danger of weakening and possibly even dying out." The report noted a drop of more than 97,000 volunteers since 1984. A survey of the National Fire Protection Association showed that at least two-thirds of the nation's fire departments are understaffed. The situation was worse in rural communities.

The $100,000 grant for Vermont will address those needs in various ways, including improved outreach to high school students and continuation of a successful summer program for young people.

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