Six local fire departments seek $1 million grant for new equipment
Six area fire departments have banded together to apply for a competitive federal grant, one that could buy more than $1 million worth of new breathing equipment for their firefighters.
The departments in Goffstown, Dunbarton, Weare, New Boston, Bedford and Litchfield applied for a regional Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Dunbarton fire Chief Jon Wiggin said the six agencies asked for almost $1.1 million to replace 165 self-contained breathing apparatuses.
Ninety percent of that award would come from the federal government, and the towns would match the remaining 10 percent.
“It’s a benefit for us and our surrounding towns,” Wiggin said.
As his department teams up with its neighbors, Goffstown fire Chief Richard O’Brien said applying as a group could help their chances with the grant administrators.
With this money, the six towns could not only replace old breathing apparatuses, but also standardize equipment used by departments that are often called to help each other, O’Brien said.
“We discovered that there’s about six departments around us that are all in the same boat,” he said. “We need to replace our old, out-of-date and obsolete air packs. . . . If awarded, that would mean pretty much all of our departments in the area would be operating from the same air pack.
“It would make perfect sense,” he said.
Chris Rizzuto, a congressional affairs officer for FEMA, said granting a collaborative application like this one could be a “better use of dollars.”
“We like to see regional applications,” Rizzuto said. “A regional application would get bumped a little bit higher because . . . what it’s showing is a number of departments coming together and cooperating across department lines. We view regional applications very favorably.”
About $370 million is available for the applicants to this grant program, which helps firefighting and emergency medical service organizations pay for expensive equipment and other resources, Rizzuto said.
“Whether they get it or not depends on how many firefighters they have, where they are in their current equipment,” Rizzuto said.
Firefighters from across the country review the applications and score them before FEMA makes the awards. Rizzuto said the grant administrators should make final decisions in early 2014.
If approved, Dunbarton alone would receive money to replace all 15 of its air packs, Wiggin said. They can cost up to $7,000 each, Wiggin said, and the town would need to spend more than $100,000 to replace them for the fire department.
But with this grant, Dunbarton would only need to foot 10 percent of the bill, just over $10,000. The money could come from a fire department fund for purchasing new equipment.
“We’re a really small town,” Wiggin said. “It would be a huge benefit for us to be able to replace our packs for a fraction of the cost of doing it ourselves.”
O’Brien agreed the grant would be a boon for the departments as they all look to upgrade their old air packs.
“It will definitely take a burden off our taxpayers and our firefighters,” O’Brien said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)