SUNBURY — The BST&G Joint Fire District was awarded $242,917 for operations and safety equipment by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We applied for the grant back in April,” Capt. Christopher R. Kovach said in an email. “Last Friday, we were awarded almost $250,000. This funding will be used to completely replace our aging self-contained breathing apparatus inventory and the air bottles for those packs. It will also allow us to issue individual mask facepieces to each firefighter (imperative to firefighter health and safety).”
The fire district will use the funds to obtain 54 air bottles, 27 harness packs and 39 facepieces, Kovach said.
“The majority of our air packs have reached the end of their service life, and without them, we cannot enter an environment immediately dangerous to life and health,” he said.
Also, the fire district will replace its air cylinder compressor and air storage cascade system with a blast-proof filling chamber to fill the bottles with clean and filtered breathing air. Kovach said their current air compressor is almost 25 years old and lacks important safety features.
The grant announcement was initially made by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
“Ohio firefighters and first responders work every day to protect our communities,” said Brown in a press release. “This investment will ensure that Sunbury has the resources it needs to keep residents safe.”
The grant was awarded by FEMA through its Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) Program. FEMA is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The AFG Program awards such grants to fire departments and emergency medical services organizations that best address its priorities.
“Fire safety grants fund critically-needed resources to equip and train emergency personnel, enhance efficiencies and support community resilience,” the FEMA website states. “Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically-needed resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.”
BST&G serves the communities of Berkshire and Trenton townships, and the villages of Galena and Sunbury.
“We’ve been very fortunate with grants over the last year,” Kovach said. “In late October 2019, we received almost $52,000 through (Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation) to install a diesel exhaust removal system. This system captures carcinogenic exhaust from our fire apparatus and expels it to the outside, allowing us to create a safer environment for our firefighters.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.