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Federal grants to aid fire companies

March 05, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - New radios, air tanks, a thermal-imaging camera and an exhaust system are some of the items on the shopping lists of fire departments that recently received grants, officers said.

The Longmeadow, Funkstown and Mt. Aetna volunteer fire companies are getting grants totaling more than $500,000, according to recent press releases from the offices of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Web site also lists companies in Hancock and Sharpsburg as two of the 62 Maryland companies that received Assistance to Firefighters grants in fiscal year 2006.

Grants allow companies to upgrade their equipment more quickly, said Deputy Chief Anthony Veney of the Mount Aetna Volunteer Fire Department.

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"A lot of stuff we probably wouldn't be able to do, especially with our budget. It's a great help. We've got a bunch of stuff that it probably would have taken us 10 years to purchase," Veney said.

The Longmeadow and Funkstown fire departments plan to purchase portable radios with their grant money, Veney and Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Paul Hottinger said.

Funkstown's grant is for $226,094. Longmeadow is getting $166,250, and Mount Aetna is getting $139,650, according to the press releases.

Mikulski's office announced a few weeks ago that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is funding $233,100 of the cost of a new truck for the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway.

At Hancock Fire Department Inc., Chief Bill Willison said a generator system has been installed, and firefighters are being trained to use new air packs purchased with a $244,625 grant. The department also will buy 20 new radios.

About $74,000 of Funkstown's grant will go toward an exhaust system to purify the air in the department's engine bay, where fumes from the trucks can become trapped, especially in the winter, Hottinger said.

The purchases also include two kits for firefighters searching for missing or injured comrades, and air tanks, Hottinger said.

In addition to the radios, Mount Aetna will be purchasing a camera that is used to locate heat sources and people, Veney said. The radios cost about $4,500 and the camera can carry a price tag of $8,000 to $12,000, Veney said.

Equipment costs can all add up very quickly, especially for volunteer departments, Willison said.

"The gear we have is like 10 years old, and you know to upgrade it costs like $2,000," Willison said.

With its grant, Hancock has ordered 20 sets of new turnout gear, including coats and boots, Willison said.

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