Up to 12 University of Alaska Southeast students will be eligible in the near future for four years of tuition reimbursement through a Capital City Fire and Rescue program being planned to recruit volunteer firefighters.
The scholarships, made possible by a $366,000 grant the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Friday, would tie in to the fire department's existing live-in volunteer firefighter program, meaning the students would get a free place to live, too, said Fire Chief Eric Mohrmann.
The department's volunteer corps struggles perennially with recruitment and retention. Staffing shortages can impact fire response times, equipment maintenance and even homeowners' insurance rates. This program could address those issues and also indirectly serve recruitment efforts on the career fire fighting side since homegrown candidates are less likely to turnover, Mohrmann said.
"Local folks are the people we'll be looking to in the future to hire full-time. They're familiar with the system, educated through the system, know us and are used to rain," Mohrmann said. "We can start in high school, take local kids familiar with Southeast that are happy here, we hope, and give them an opportunity ... to learn about emergency service."
The students won't be obligated to make a career of fire fighting, Mohrmann said.
Details of the plan such as specific duties and eligibility criteria are still being worked out, and draw down of the grant money is subject to approval by the Juneau Assembly, Mohrmann said.
"The chance of getting this grant, I think, was a fairly low percentage. We've done some initial work, but haven't dotted the Is and crossed the Ts," Mohrmann said.
The scholarships may be available as early as this summer, but more likely in the fall, Mohrmann said.
Aside from the tuition reimbursement, about $80,000 of the grant spread over four years will be used to advertise volunteer fire fighting opportunities.
Contact reporter Jeremy Hsieh at 523-2258 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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