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Washington County fire departments awarded $607,961 in federal grants

January 22, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

Three Washington County fire departments have been awarded a total of $607,961 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, Maryland's senators announced this week.

The awards to the Hagerstown Fire Department, the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. and the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. will be used to purchase new equipment, fire officials said.

The Hagerstown Fire Department will use its $314,190 to install diesel exhaust systems at its seven stations and to purchase new portable radios that allow firefighters to communicate with police and other emergency responders, Chief Gary Hawbaker said.

The diesel exhaust systems will remove harmful material from engine exhaust, Hawbaker said.

"We have some old fire stations, and once you start up a diesel fire engine, it really quickly fills the whole building with carbon monoxide," Hawbaker said.

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Currently, firefighters ventilate their stations by opening doors and using large exhaust fans, he said.

The radio upgrade was necessary because the department's old radios will not be useful after the county upgrades its radio system, Hawbaker said.

At the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co., officials plan to use a $156,750 grant to buy a new mini-pumper engine to replace an outdated 1975 model, Lt. Mark Kopp said.

The new engine will feature a four-person cab, four-wheel drive and a compressed air foam system that will reduce firefighter fatigue, Kopp said.

It also will have a 500 gallon-per-minute pump, double the rate of the pump on the older mini-pumper, he said.

In Funkstown, a $137,021 grant will allow firefighters to practice what they preach by installing a sprinkler system in the station, company Vice President Larry Iseminger said.

"It's something we've known we should do for years," Iseminger said. "It looks good for the community, too. We encourage other people to put in sprinkler systems."

The company now relies on a fire alarm system to alert firefighters to fires within the station, he said. Most stations built within the past 10 years include sprinkler systems, but many older stations do not, he said.

The Funkstown company also plans to purchase other equipment with the grant, including a 4-inch hose, he said.

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