Christmas Day is still more than two weeks away.
Winfield firefighters Gordon Sparks (left) and Patrick Bargeron show off one of the sets of turnout gear they were able to purchase with a $19,000 grant. The department purchased 11 sets of gear, a hose, infectious control kits and radios with the grant.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
But for Winfield Volunteer firemen, it is like Santa has already visited, leaving behind firefighting gifts such as a new hose and turnout gear.
"We have a bunch of happy firemen around here," said Gordon Sparks, the volunteer fire service's board president and volunteer firefighter.
Santa, in this case, was the Federal Emergency Management Agency who granted the Winfield Volunteer Fire Department $19,709 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. With the grant money from the Fire Operations and Firefighters Safety category, the department purchased 11 new sets of turnout gear, a hose, infectious control kits and radios.
All the equipment was badly needed as the department, which has an annual operating budget of only a few thousand dollars more than the grant, usually gets equipment from donations, surplus at other department or volunteers buy or bring it in themselves.
"What we have done in the past is when another fire department has surplus equipment, we get down on bended knee and beg them," Sparks said. "What may be worn out to the Martinez Fire Department is new stuff to us."
The turnout gear costing $1,002 each, includes boots, pants, suspenders, jacket, face mask, helmet and gloves. Most of the suits the 23 members of the department normally are worn, but still in good working condition. Others, such as board vice president Patrick Bargeron's, has half of the back ripping off. Only the best of the used turnout gear needs to be used as the 11 new sets can replace the most worn ones.
"They were all donations and we are glad to have it," Bargeron said. "But they are all ragged. This is the first new stuff we have gotten. Everybody is glad to see it."
The department is only one of 3,748 fire or Emergency Service agencies to receive almost $236,000,000 in Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety, Fire Prevention, Firefighting Vehicles and EMS categories for 2002. Grants in the operations and safety category ranged from less than $10,000 to almost $400,000.
The shopping spree also including infectious control kits, which include face shields and gloves, radios for some volunteers and some gear bags so firefighters can have gear handy in their vehicles.
The board took over a squabbling, unorganized and nearly broke department several years ago and is gradually working it back up with a great staff and responsible spending. That spending, after insurance, truck payments, and other bills, does not leave room for new equipment, Sparks said.
The budget is made up of subscriber payments, most of the 70 percent that pay are only required to pay the minimum $40 a year, and fundraisers the firefighters and other volunteers man themselves. They hold regular breakfast and yard sales, annual holiday family portraits and of course, the ongoing sale of driveway markers.
Any extra money in the budget and from fundraisers along with any donated materials, money or labor goes towards finishing the new station on Moontown Road and an expansion for the Cobbham Road station. The land for the Moontown station was donated by Carelock Thomas, a volunteer, and Sparks donated several thousand dollars for it's construction.
The Cobbhamm Road station fits four trucks in the bays with absolutely no room to spare. Bumpers overlap and the trucks still stretch from bay door to bay door. The quickest way across them in either over or under. So, an extension is direly needed.
Donations for any projects are always accepted, Bargeron said.
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