Two Washington County volunteer fire companies receive federal grants

March 06, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Two Washington County volunteer fire companies will receive federal grant money this year to upgrade their breathing equipment.

Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Department and First Hose Co. in Boonsboro each received 95 percent matching grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, according to a news release from the offices of U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Benjam in L. Cardin, both Maryland Democrats.

Boonsboro was awarded $57,000 toward a $60,000 project to purchase a mobile system for refilling the air-cylinder tanks that firefighters wear, said Jay Brandenburg, who wrote the fire company’s grant.

Clear Spring will receive $134,520 toward a $141,600 project to purchase 24 sets of self-contained breathing apparatuses and a machine for measuring the fit of firefighter face pieces, said Carl Witmer, who wrote the grant for the department.

Both grants require the two fire departments to match 5 percent, according to information on, the official website of the AFG program.

Brandenburg said Boonsboro will match its grant with $3,000.

Clear Spring will match its grant with $7,080, Witmer said.

“If we hadn’t gotten this grant, I don’t know how we would have purchased this equipment,” Witmer said.

Witmer said most of the breathing equipment used by the Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Department is outdated.
Additionally, there is only one machine in the county for measuring the fit of face pieces, he said.

Witmer said he applied for the same grant to purchase the equipment in 2009, but was turned down.

The grant will allow the fire department to have enough new breathing equipment — which will include air packs, face pieces and air cylinders — for each seat on its apparatuses, he said. It also will allow for more frequent testing of face-piece fittings, he said.

Brandenburg said the system for filling air cylinders, called a mobile cascade system, that First Hose Co. will purchase with its grant will greatly reduce the number of reserve air cylinders it needs to take to a fire.

Because the cylinders hold only 30 minutes worth of air, the system will allow the firefighters to refill empty cylinders on the scene of a fire, he said.

“This (system) is a compressor that will basically press, compact and shove air into  bottles,” he said.

“With the cost to maintain, inspect and certify the cylinders being so high, it’s hard to keep a lot of them in reserve.”

The grant will allow the company to “do more with less,” he said.

Brandenburg said there is currently only one mobile cascade system in the county.

Having two of those systems available in the county will be a great asset to firefighters, both men said.

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