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Milton FD receives federal grant

June 25th, 2013

Last week U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand jointly announced the award of a grant of $105,403 to the Milton Fire Department that will be used to replace outdated air packs.

Funds for the equipment, known as Self Contained Breathing Apparatus [SCBA] air packs, came from a federal FY12 Assistance to Firefighters Grant [AFG] program that is administered by the U. S. Department of Homeland Security [DHS] and the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration.

The AFG grants are awarded on a competitive basis to departments that adhere closely to the program priorities and can demonstrate a financial need.

The equipment purchased with AFG funds is earmarked for firefighters and first responders for protective gear, emergency vehicles and important training sessions for terrorist emergencies, enhancing emergency medical service programs, developing health and safety initiatives, creating fire education and prevention programs and starting wellness and fitness programs.

In a prepared statement Sen. Schumer commented on the grant.

“With this funding, Milton firefighters can focus on their important work knowing that they have reliable new air packs. This investment will help ensure that our local heroes can continue their life-saving work and will enable them to respond as effectively and safely as possible.”

Sen. Gillibrand echoed her colleague’s sentiments.

“This is an important investment for the Milton Fire Company,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to ensure our first responders have the most up-to-date equipment to serve our communities. The new air packs will help the Milton Fire Department upgrade their emergency response equipment so that their firefighters can respond to emergencies in the community more efficiently and effectively and help save more lives.”

The Milton Fire Company will be replacing approximately 20 outdated tank and mask breathing units, with new ones having improved safety features built into the gear. The company has 25 active volunteer members who respond to approximately 110 calls annually.

Fire Commissioner James Van Vliet said this grant is very needed in the department.

“We were really going to have to stretch ourselves to update our air pack system and also try to maintain all of the other things we have,” he said. “The 2 percent budget cap puts a stranglehold on you somewhat; so this is going to help us out substantially.”

Second Assistant Fire Chief Allan Koenig said the equipment that is going to be replaced is now 16 years old.

“That’s pushing it a bit,” Koenig said of the equipment’s intended life-span. “This is essential for life safety. This is the air they [firefighters] breathe in the building. Typically you want to keep them [at] 10 years old, the maximum. They’re pretty paramount for safety.”

Koenig said had they not received the grant, it would have forced the company to go out for a bond, which would impact the taxpayers. He said the units were requiring constant attention and some needed repairs.

“We were losing one or two air packs, whether it was at a drill or at an actual fire scene,” he said. “One or two were always going out of service.”

Koenig said one went out on him at a fire scene – “It adds to the stress level.”

In anticipation of replacing these units, Koenig said the fire company has been making inquiries of several manufacturers for the past two years.

“We’re still half way there [and] we have up to a year to spend the money,” he said. “We’ve narrowed it down to two or three different manufacturers at this point.”

Koenig said the bulkiness of the equipment and the ease with which it can be put on are two important factors in making their decision.

Once the research and review process is completed, Koenig said there will be a public notice posted in the newspaper and a sealed-bid procedure followed for the new equipment.

Koenig said everyone “was extremely pleased” upon learning of the grant award “from the fire commissioners all the way down to the rank and file.”

“This is a big relief for us, it really is; it’s great news. The money came at the right time,” he said. “It was a great morning when I received the phone call. I was able to relay that to everybody [in the company] and they were just as excited.”

Koenig said FEMA’s estimate of approximately $5,000 per unit is accurate within the industry, but he is hoping for a bulk rate if they purchase all of the units from one manufacturer. Presently, the grant will allow for the purchase of 20 units.

By MARK REYNOLDS
mreynolds@tcnewspapers.com

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