Fire Department secures $565k to replace old equipment 

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 08-15-2023 3:27 PM

EASTHAMPTON — As demand for services increases, $565,000 in federal grants will put the Easthampton Fire Department on its way to replacing old equipment including a brush truck, air filling system, and self-contained breathing apparatus.

“When you look at our call volume … it’s gone up over 20% each year over the last three years,” Easthampton Fire Chief Christopher Norris said, noting that those calls can be attributed to Easthampton, along with a growing number of mutual aid requests from surrounding communities.

“Having this equipment take that continual strain and wear and tear certainly lowers the life expectancy of it,” he said. “Being able to replace it with this newer equipment and newer technology is going to help take the strain off those resources.”

Funding for the new equipment is covered by two Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFGs), which are awarded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The city will have two years to use the money.

Norris said $300,000 will go toward purchasing a new brush truck, which is a vehicle that can drive through rough terrain to respond to a fire or rescue. The city’s current brush truck is a 1985 surplus vehicle due for replacement. Norris said a vehicle committee has already formed to search for a new vehicle that “meets the needs of the community.”

Norris expects the search and purchase of the new truck to take until the end of spring 2024.

Another $265,000 will allow the city to purchase a new air filling station and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

The current air filling station is 35 years old and “has been problematic over the last few years in terms of upkeep and maintenance,” according to Norris.

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The SCBAs — devices worn by firefighters to provide breathable air in oxygen-deficient, smoky, or otherwise contaminated or dangerous air to breathe — are 15 years old and no longer meet national standards.

Along with 24 brand new SCBAs, the Fire Department also will be able to purchase 48 new air cylinders and 32 new face pieces, both components of SCBAs.

Assistance to Firefighters Grants

Applying for an AFG is a competitive process. Of about 18,000 applications each year, Homeland Security typically issues around 200 awards for the purchase of new vehicles, and 2,000 awards for new equipment.

Applications are assessed based on community demographics, call volume, project scope and description, and potential effect on daily operations.

This week’s grant announcement comes just over a week after Easthampton announced it had received another $229,000 AFG grant to fund a two-year regional training program for 70 EMTs and paramedics across Hampshire county.

“That’s three applications, and all three were awarded this year,” Norris said.  

Under grant guidelines, the city is required to provide a 5% match, a cost the city’s budget already covers.

“All of this equipment and vehicles were on the capital improvements plan for the city, so all of this equipment was basically in line to eventually get funded from city revenues to replace,” Norris said. “It will provide a much needed financial relief.”

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com or on Twitter @MaddieFabian.]]>