Taking the heat off firefighters: Greenwich Bank and Trust will assist in training costs

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Firefighter candidates preparing to join the Cos Cob Fire Police Patrol (CCFPP) have a rigorous training process to get through, but thanks to Greenwich Bank and Trust they will no longer have to pay to get it.

Currently firefighter candidates have to front the $1,500 cost for their intensive Firefighter 1 training course. Though the town has a reimbursement policy that compensates that cost to firefighter candidates who have successfully passed the Firefighter 1 training, there can be a lag time for that. The bank will now assume that responsibility in an attempt to ease the financial burden on candidates, who are often in their 20s and 30s and strapped for money, according to town resident and CCFPP member Joe Kaliko.

Mr. Kaliko, the man who helped put the arrangement together, told the Post that the bank will provide the CCFPP with a $10,000 revolving line of credit to be used specifically for the Firefighter 1 course, which ultimately earns candidates “entry tags” that allow them to enter structures where a working fire is in progress. The town’s reimbursement checks to the patrol will then pay off the bank on a rolling basis.

Whereas some fire companies have the money to front prospective firefighters’ course work until it has been completed, Mr. Kaliko said the CCFPP and other volunteer companies such as the Byram Volunteer Fire Department have limited treasuries that must be used for insurance, uniforms and other operating costs. At present, he said, with approximately $10,000 in the CCFPP treasury and four to five “near term” firefighter candidates on hand, the organization’s funds would be depleted by about two-thirds if it paid course fees out of pocket. Now, thanks to the arrangement with Greenwich Bank and Trust, however, the patrol will be able to use its funds to pay for other necessities, such as its $3,500-per-year insurance policy, according to Mr. Kaliko.

Though the arrangement is Mr. Kaliko’s brainchild, state Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st District), an associate member of the CCFPP who has already worked on several projects with Mr. Kaliko to benefit volunteer firefighters, executed it and helped design the pilot program.

In an interview with the Post, Mr. Camillo said the plan will give the patrol a lot of flexibility and will establish a mutual relationship between the organization and the bank. The bank was highly receptive to the idea from the get-go and is “very civic minded,” Mr. Camillo said.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he added.

In addition to taking a “big load” off firefighter candidates’ backs, Mr. Camillo said he hopes the deal will help promote what the patrol does and why it is a major asset to the town. Ranked one of the best volunteer fire/police organizations in the country, the CCFPP provides services to all of Greenwich and even helped direct traffic in Newtown to give local safety personnel a break after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last month, Mr. Camillo said.

“That’s what they’re all about,” he said.

Mr. Kaliko echoed Mr. Camillo’s sentiments, calling attention to the many services the CCFPP provides to residents. Patrol members will enter burning buildings in an attempt to save occupants’ valuables from fire or water damage, and the 40-member unit is one of 10 remaining salvage specialist organizations in the state, according to Mr. Kaliko. Perhaps its most important role, however, is “protecting the protectors,” he said. CCFPP members often travel to the scene of an accident to close road lanes, set up flares and cones, and use a large company vehicle to shield emergency personnel and accident victims from passing traffic.

Greenwich Bank and Trust President Richard Muskus Jr. “really stepped up to the plate” to help the town’s young firefighters, who have, at times, been turned away from the CCFPP because of a lack of money for the Firefighter 1 course, Mr. Kaliko said.

Publicity for the bank was never something Mr. Muskus and his employees cared about, Mr. Kaliko added. In fact, he said, Mr. Muskus said he would consider providing financial aid to other volunteer organizations in town. Similarly, Mr. Kaliko explained that Selectman David Theis also pledged to move the program forward to other town fire companies, or even other nonprofit organizations, if the current arrangement proves successful.

With approximately two weeks until the program launches, Mr. Kaliko said he hopes to see the arrangement take off and be utilized to aid other nonprofits in town. “It’s a win all around,” he said.

 

kshea@greenwich-post.com

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