Mass. fire departments react to boost in state funding

"Grant funding like this — particularly from the state — is needed to keep current with equipment," said Gardner Fire Chief Greg Lagoy


Stephen Landry
The Gardner News, Mass.

GARDNER, Mass. — Several local fire departments, including Gardner, Ashburnham and Westminster, have been awarded state grant funding for the purchase of new safety equipment.

On Jan. 12, Gov. Charlie Baker's office announced that $5 million in grant funding had been awarded to more than 300 fire departments in the state via the fiscal 2022 Firefighter Safety Equipment Grant Program.

The Gardner (Mass.) Fire Department was the recipient of $11,647. Fire Chief Greg Lagoy said the funding will go toward the purchase of much-needed, updated ventilation saws, nozzles and breathing apparatus.
The Gardner (Mass.) Fire Department was the recipient of $11,647. Fire Chief Greg Lagoy said the funding will go toward the purchase of much-needed, updated ventilation saws, nozzles and breathing apparatus. (Photo/Gardner Fire Department)

The Gardner Fire Department was the recipient of $11,647, and Fire Chief Greg Lagoy said the funding will go toward the purchase of much-needed, updated ventilation saws, nozzles and breathing apparatus.

"It's critical funding (because) we need to upgrade non-compliant, out-of-date and non-serviceable equipment," Lagoy said. "The local budgets are so strained that we can't afford to buy everything we need, so grant funding like this — particularly from the state — is needed to keep current with equipment."

The department will use the funding to purchase battery-powered ventilation saws to replace the ones currently used by firefighters, Lagoy said.

"We have multiple gasoline-powered saws that are over 20 years old and need constant maintenance and are not reliable, so we'll be replacing those," he said, adding that the department is also planning to convert some of its current saws to be battery powered. "That's a new technology that has advanced quite a bit in the last few years, so battery-powered tools do beat the high-service demand that comes with firefighting equipment."

The new nozzles will replace the department's current ones, some of which are more than 30 years old, Lagoy said, and some of the current breathing equipment will be complemented with new, rapid intervention team breathing air kits.

"We're going to maximize the (grant) dollars as much as we can, and we do have a small amount of money in the local budget, so if we need to offset some of these costs, we can try to do that," he said.

The Ashburnham Fire Department was awarded nearly $14,000, and Fire Chief Robert Plant said the funding will go toward the purchase of equipment that will be used on the department's newly purchased fire truck.

"The townspeople have been very generous in purchasing a new ladder truck that should be arriving in the next four to six weeks, so this equipment, which is new radios, a new thermal imager and a new gas meter, will go right onto that new truck," Plant said. "This funding is always very welcome and it's a significant amount of money for equipment that we need."

The final purchase of the new fire engine, a 78-foot ladder truck with a water tank and pump, was approved by residents at Town Meeting in December, Plant said.

The $15,356 awarded to the Westminster Fire Department will allow the department to follow through on its initiative to keep its turnout gear up to date, according to Chief Kyle Butterfield.

"We're going to be using this money to complete the National Fire Protection Association's 10-year requirements for helmets, so we'll replace all of our helmets so that everybody will be compliant with the 10-year period that our gear is good for," Butterfield said.

The funding will also be used to make the department's hose loads more efficient, including the addition of low-pressure hoses and nozzles, which will be easier to use by firefighters in situations where there are fewer crew members available to work, he said.

The Hubbardston Fire Department was awarded $11,850 in funding, while the Templeton Fire Department is set to receive $15,144, according to officials. The Winchendon Fire Department was awarded $18,680.

Fire departments in the state were able to apply the program to more than 100 different types of eligible safety equipment, including personal protective clothing, gear washers and dryers, thermal imaging cameras, assorted hand tools and extrication equipment, communications resources, hazardous gas meters, and fitness equipment.

"Our communities and families depend on firefighters in difficult and dangerous moments, Baker said in a press release. "This program is an opportunity to show our deep appreciation for their work by ensuring they have the tools they need to stay safe and healthy."

In many cases, the purchase of the new equipment will help departments attain compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration or National Fire Protection Association safety standards.

"The toll that occupational cancer has taken on the fire service is unfortunately immense," said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Terrence Reidy. "We often see and hear about heroic rescues in the face of obvious and overwhelming danger, but the risks firefighters face go well beyond those events. I am thrilled that we can provide so many fire departments with this funding for equipment that will reduce firefighters' long-term exposure to cancer-causing material they encounter every day at work."

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(c)2022 The Gardner News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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