Dec 12, 2023 - News

$22 million grant allows Philadelphia to reopen 3 fire companies

President Biden greets attendees during an event announcing a $22.4 million grant to Philly.

President Biden during an event announcing a SAFER grant for Philadelphia. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Philadelphia received a federal grant Monday to reopen three fire companies that have been closed for more than a decade.

Why it matters: The $22.4 million SAFER grant will allow the city to reopen Ladder 1, which is located about a mile from last year's deadly Fairmount fire but has been closed for nearly 15 years.

Driving the news: The grant will also reopen Engine 6 and Ladder 11 and fund salaries and benefits of 72 firefighters for three years, plus those of an incoming class of fire cadets, President Biden announced during a news conference Monday.

  • The three fire companies were decommissioned in 2009 due to a city budget shortfall.
  • It's unclear exactly when they will reopen.

Flashback: The Fairmount rowhouse fire started after a 5-year-old using a lighter sparked a Christmas tree in January 2022. Nine children and three adults died of smoke inhalation.

  • Mike Bresnan, president of the IAFF Local 22, lobbied Biden for the grant after the tragedy, per the Inquirer.
  • Union officials believe that having Ladder 1 available would've sped up the response to the Fairmount fire and saved lives.

What they're saying: Mayor Jim Kenney, the son of a firefighter, said during the news conference that the Fairmount fire was one of his "saddest days" as mayor. He remembers seeing firefighters with tears in their eyes because they couldn't save the victims.

  • Biden praised first responders and recounted times when their quick actions helped save him and his family, including when he underwent surgery to correct an aneurysm as a senator.

"The most frightening thing anyone can do is run into a fire," Biden said. "Being a firefighter isn't just what you do. It's who the hell you are."

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