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Firefighters grant will pay for equipment

New breathing apparatuses, gear will ensure safety

Posted: Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Harlem Department of Public Safety firefighters will soon have a lighter load to carry into a fire.

Because of a $28,443 Assistance to Firefighters Grant, Chief Jerry Baldwin said he plans to purchase several self-contained breathing apparatuses, including air tanks made of a lighter material.

"We're going to replace some of the (steel or aluminum) air tanks to the composite bottles," Baldwin said. "You have a longer air time with them and they are much lighter."

The grant, awarded by the Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 27, is one of 5,500 awards worth more than $600 million in direct assistance to firefighters and first responders nationwide.

"We're excited about it," Baldwin said of the grant money.

Baldwin said one breathing system can cost between $2,000 to $3,000, depending on the model. Turn-out gear, which includes a fire-retardant coat and pants, costs about $1,500 per set.

"A set of turnout gear can last anywhere from two to four years,'' Baldwin said. "After about four years of use, we generally surplus that out (to other departments). We can't use it, so we don't even charge them for it. So, it is just a donation in terms of looking out for other rural departments."

Pam Tucker, Columbia County's Emergency Services director, said most of the fire departments operating within the county have received the Assistance to Firefighter Grants in the past. The Grovetown Department of Public Safety was awarded $36,917 in September, $24,120 in 2004 and $28,800 in 2003 for personal protective gear and equipment.

Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue also received several of the grants, including $92,050 in 2004 and $5,775 in 2001.

Baldwin said the grant money comes in handy while the department watches every penny during the renovation of the New Street fire station into a training center with a kitchen and training room. Because city firefighters pulled back inside the city limits as of Dec. 31, Baldwin said the lower number of fires means more training to keep fire-fighting skills proficient.

"We're not going to have a whole lot of calls a year, so we train more to stay on top of things," Baldwin said.

In an unrelated partnership program, state legislators recently have approved more than $631,000 to help replace Zylon-based body armor vests at certain public safety offices statewide. Grovetown Department of Public Safety will receive $1,516 through that program to replace eight such vests, which might not have had enough ballistic resistance.



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