Fire departments receive much-needed grants for essential services

HAMPSHIRE COUNTY — The Baker-Polito administration recently awarded a $5 million grant to 306 Massachusetts fire departments to help purchase a variety of equipment to make firefighters’ jobs easier.

Easthampton, Southampton and Westhampton were among the communities in the state that received this funding to properly deliver essential day-to-day administered services. According to the state press release, Easthampton received $14,044, Southampton received $15,500, and Westhampton received $10,435.

According to Westhampton Fire Chief David Antosz, their fire department is using the money for protective gear, along with other items that will help take care of the protective gear. “It’s a combination of things that we looked at, trying to achieve,” Antosz said.

This is the second year the state has provided grants to acquire essential equipment as part of a $25 million obligation fulfilled by the Baker-Polio administration to support the safety and health of firefighters in the years to come.

One of the items received by the Westhampton Fire Department will help increase the cleaning of equipment after it is taken out of a hazardous situation, which is important as such conditions can often cause scattering of carcinogenic materials that can have a long-term effect. effect on health.

Cleaning products will now allow equipment to be returned to service more quickly.

For John Workman, the fire chief of the Southampton Fire Department, the $15,500 is significant because the city usually doesn’t have the budget to replace some of its aging equipment. “Without a portion of the grant, it’s almost impossible to keep some of the equipment up to date,” Workman said. “It’s a constant challenge.”

Of the total grant, $10,710 will go towards the purchase of nine cylinders of self-contained breathing apparatus that expire and need to be replaced; $2,660 will be for four sets of forest firefighting equipment; and $2,130 will be used for six self-contained breathing apparatus to ensure all employees have one for personal use. According to Workman, these parts are especially important in the age of COVID-19 because they limit the potential for cross-contamination from personal equipment. “The grant is awesome,” Workman said. “It helps us, protects the guys and allows us to do our job.”

Workman said that in the past it was difficult to get grants for fire departments because there weren’t many opportunities for it. Additionally, Workman said he had to cut funding over the past two years due to budget issues within the city, so the program is now particularly important for that reason.

The grant funding is part of a five-year program the state offers to fire departments, according to Workman. “After five years, maybe I will be caught up,” he said, referring to the equipment the department will need in the years to come. “And that’s a wonderful thing.”

Meanwhile, the Easthampton Fire Department also used its grant money to purchase protective clothing for its staff, including five sets of turnout gear. “[The gear] will provide our service with the ability to begin outfitting each member with two sets of compliant gear,” Easthampton Fire Chief Christopher Norris said. “And these two sets of compliant equipment for each member are based on national standards.” The fire chief also added that the two new sets of equipment will help highlight the importance of cleaning unhealthy carcinogenic clothing before it is reused.

In total, fire departments across the state were able to apply for this grant program for 118 different types of eligible equipment, including personal protective clothing, washers and dryers, thermal imaging cameras , assorted hand tools and extrication equipment, communication resources, hazardous gas meters, fitness equipment and more. In many cases, purchasing this equipment will help departments achieve or maintain compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration or National Fire Protection Association safety standards.

Michelle J. Kelley