A national firefighters grant program that has helped Frederick County fire services pay for equipment over the past several years received $680 million in federal funding, Sen. Barbara Milkulski announced last week.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which falls under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, allocates funding to local fire companies, including those in Frederick County, each year to buy apparatus and firefighter and personal protective equipment as well as invest in training, staffing, and fire prevention and retention efforts, according to the program’s website.
In fiscal 2013, fire services in Frederick County received about $1.4 million, according to documents on the FEMA website.
The program allotted roughly $1.3 million to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Emmitsburg for fire prevention, about $120,000 to the New Market District Volunteer Fire Co. for equipment and almost $25,000 to the Junior Fire Co. in downtown Frederick for equipment, according to documents on the FEMA website.
Although the $680 million is slated for the current fiscal year, the program will decide and award the grants from fiscal 2014, which ended Sept. 30, in the next few months, according to the FEMA website.
Under the current application system, fire departments will begin submitting grant applications for fiscal 2015 funds toward the end of this year and early next year, and receive their awards in 2016, according to Milkulski’s office.
Junior Fire Co. used the funds awarded for fiscal 2013 to buy four radios, two per engine, so firefighters could communicate with one another while on the scene. Typically a minimum of five personnel per engine are sent on a call, which left at least one person on each engine without a radio, said Bertie Abrecht, the fire company’s assistant treasurer.
“My responsibility was to do that grant to get two extra radios so all (personnel) have radios in case they get in trouble … and to communicate with the command center,” she said.
Abrecht submitted the grant proposal in December 2013 and learned the fire company received the roughly $25,000 in 2014. Today, the company is using the four radios, she said.
“If I can get grants to help save the taxpayers of Frederick County (money) … that does help,” she said. “Therefore, what the grant will purchase … doesn’t come out of the county.”
Abrecht said the Junior Fire Co. did not apply for any grants from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program for fiscal 2014, and will begin looking at the company’s potential needs for fiscal 2015.
Over the past couple of years, the county’s Division of Fire and Rescue Services has received almost $2 million from the program to fund breathing masks, pagers, washers and dryers, and clean turnout gear, according to Ann Brown, a grants manager in the county.
For fiscal 2014, the division submitted an application for $2.2 million for 275 dual band portable radios, Brown wrote in an email.
Today, Frederick County personnel responding to calls in adjoining counties to the west, such as Washington County, cannot communicate with first responders in that area via radio, according to Chip Jewell, chief of the county’s volunteer companies.
“With the radios we have, we do not have capability to go to the same frequency as western counties,” Jewell said. “With the enhanced radios, we can respond to those counties and talk directly to units … over there.”
Fire officials will find out whether they received these funds in the coming weeks, according to the FEMA website.
“We don’t get every year,” Jewell said. “We’ve been fairly successful … trying to take advantage of all grant opportunities we have.”
As for grant proposals for fiscal 2015, Jewell said the county will look at its needs and request funds for items that fall under the program’s guidelines.
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