Quebec Public Safety Minister Lise Thériault has announced more funding for volunteer firefighters in the province.

The creation of the program, with a budget of $19.5 million over five years, had already been allotted in the June budget.

"We are aware that the funding of training for volunteer firefighters and part-time had become an issue," Thériault said Friday in Louiseville.

The announcement comes nearly a year after a fire in a seniors’ residence in L'Isle-Verte left 32 people dead.

The tragedy prompted questions about the level of training for volunteer firefighters.

Seniors home fire

Firefighters battle flames at the L'Isle-Verte seniors home in Quebec in January, 2014. (Infodimanche)

Witnesses who testified at an ongoing coroner's inquest into the incident have described firefighters arriving ill-prepared for the scale of the blaze. One witness described the scene as a "free for all," and said firefighters didn't check the perimeter of the building to locate any residents who may have needed help.

The inquest continues next week in Rivière-du-Loup.

Funding to help smaller municipalities 

The program is open to municipalities with fewer than 200,000 residents. Of the 23,000 firefighters in the province, 17,800 are volunteers or work part time. Between five and seven per cent of those leave each year and also must be replaced.

The Quebec government already requires volunteer firefighters to train for 330 hours, but some municipalities don’t put forward the money required for the training and the volunteers must pay for it themselves.

The funding works out to the equivalent of $3,000 per firefighter and will be available immediately, Thériault said.