By Fiona de Young
Community Relations Manager

VAIL, AZ – The Rincon Valley Fire District is the proud recipient of a $585,000 award – the largest ever in the District’s 35-year history – to be used towards hiring. The grant is part of FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency and Response (SAFER) program. “The coronavirus pandemic has brought forth new challenges for fire districts,” said Fire Chief Jayme Kahle. “One of those challenges is making sure we have adequate staffing to meet increased demand.”

The Rincon Valley Fire District (RVFD) has been extremely proactive in securing grant resources this year, including federal and foundational funding. “This grant will be used for the hiring of additional firefighters,” said Battalion Chief James Tucker.

The District’s goal was to increase its staffing capacity to deploy a four-person engine crew, meeting the guidance set forth by the National Fire Protection Association and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “The Institute proved that when responding to a structure fire, the essential firefighter tasks were done 25 percent faster with the four-person standard,” Tucker said, “when seconds count, this extra person will allow the crew to get water on the fire faster, thus reducing property damage and lowering the danger to firefighters.”

In recognition of the economic hardships faced by local jurisdictions and fire departments across the country, FEMA waived the cost-share for this year’s SAFER program, allowing RVFD to hire at little to no cost for the district and in turn, the taxpayer. The district applied for the grant in May. It was awarded in August and approved by the Fire District Board last month. The grant is part of the Assistance to Firefighters program, which provides funding nationwide for emergency personnel, training, and equipment.

“We are grateful for the swift action of our federal partners, and their response to challenges on the ground,” said Fiona de Young, Community Relations Manager.

Fiona de Young recently joined the Rincon Valley Fire District as its new Community Relations Manager. In this role, she is responsible for managing the District’s community engagement and media relations. Before joining the District, Fiona worked as an aide to U.S. Senator Martha McSally. She holds a Master’s Degree in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Fiona loves hiking in the beautiful mountains of Southern Arizona.

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