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Washington Co. fire and rescue companies get nearly $2 million in federal grants

August 05, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

FUNKSTOWN -- Both of Maryland's U.S. senators were in Funkstown on Tuesday to announce almost $2 million in federal grants for Washington County fire and rescue companies.

U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., stopped at the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Department as part of a two-day tour of Western Maryland.

They will be in Cumberland Wednesday to talk about gas prices and meet with veterans.

On Tuesday, the senators addressed about 50 people in the Funkstown fire station, most of whom were firefighters from the county's fire and rescue companies that have received federal grant money.

Mikulski said the federal fire grants are crucial to helping fire departments, especially rural ones, pay for expensive equipment, from protective gear to fire engines.

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"We know you can't do this on tip jars, fish fries, bingo ... as much fun as they are, it just isn't enough to give you the modern tools you need," Mikulski said.

In 2007, a total of $1,997,240 in federal fire grants was distributed to eight Washington County fire and rescue companies.

Since 2001, Washington County fire and rescue companies have received $7.4 million in federal fire grants, second in Maryland only to Prince George's County.

Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association President Glenn Fishack said the county's volunteer companies would not be able to function as they do without the grants.

"Without this grant money, these companies would be suffering, and Washington County as a whole would be, too," Fishack said.

Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said the $1.3 million in grants the department received in 2007 allowed him to, among other things, add nine firefighters to his staff.

"Although it doesn't sound like much, that allows us to have at least two firefighters aboard an engine," Hawbaker said to the senators. "Obviously, you two were a great help to us."

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