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Grant helps struggling fire company

December 07, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - News of a recent federal grant of $112,500 for a new piece of equipment couldn't have come at a better time, according to Jay Brandenburg, deputy chief of First Hose Co. of Boonsboro Inc.

"We're in such a staffing nightmare right now," Brandenburg said. "And we also have water problems and access problems."

While the new compressed air foam mini-pumper the company is planning to buy won't ease the staffing woes, it will help greatly with water and access, Brandenburg said.

He explained that the benefit of compressed air foam - which is cutting-edge technology - is that hose lines are lighter, the reach is farther and the potential to stop fire is much greater.

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Boonsboro's coverage territory is experiencing huge growth while the fire company's numbers aren't, Brandenburg said. The fire company remains volunteer.

Station 8 was established along Md. 67 in Rohrersville more than five years ago in hopes that equipment could get to some of the more-remote areas quicker starting from there, Brandenburg said. But getting enough people to operate that equipment is always an unknown.

The grant was announced by the offices of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., in early November. It is coming from the Assistance for Firefighters Grant Program of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

"This $112,500 federal grant to First Hose Co. of Boonsboro Inc. in Washington County is part of the federal government's effort to equip our nation's First Responders," Bartlett said in a news release.

The fire company will be responsible for providing at least $12,500 of matching funds toward the project, according to the release.

After Sept. 11, 2001, firefighters know they may be called upon to respond to terrorist attacks, Bartlett said. The proximity of the nation's capital places additional burdens upon the emergency response capabilities of volunteer fire companies in Maryland.

"This grant will improve the capability of Boonsboro's firefighters to ensure their own health and safety as well as improve their ability to respond to emergencies and protect the lives and property of everyone in the community," Bartlett said.

Brandenburg said the grant program is vital to firefighters in the trenches with about 90 to 95 percent of the funding actually getting to the streets.

"We're a good six months away from getting it," Brandenburg said of the money. He added that efforts are under way to streamline that process because the need is so great.

The new mini-pumper will be used at the Rohrersville station because there are no fire hydrants in that area, Brandenburg said.

"This allows us to get water into areas that may otherwise be challenging," he said.

Another benefit of the smaller unit is that some volunteers who might not be certified to use the larger engines will be able to use it.

Without the federal funding, it would take 15 years to complete a project like this with regular efforts to raise funds, Brandenburg said. He called the grant "a godsend."

The Assistance for Firefighters Grant Program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Domestic Preparedness in cooperation with the United States Fire Administration and assists rural, urban and suburban fire departments throughout the United States.

These funds are used by the nation's firefighters to increase the effectiveness of firefighting operations, firefighter health and safety programs, new fire apparatus, emergency medical service programs and fire prevention and safety programs.

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