By Keith Whitcomb Jr.
BRANDON — The Brandon Fire Department will be able to purchase new breathing systems without leaning on local taxpayers, thanks to a federal grant.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Friday the department has been awarded a $160,477 Assistance to Firefighters grant.
Brandon Fire Department Chief Roman Wdoviak said the grant should allow the department to buy between 20 and 25 breathing apparatuses. The department will have to seek competitive bids from different manufacturers and submit that information to FEMA to ensure the money is spent in the most cost-effective way possible.
“This was a very big purchase we were looking at,” said Wdoviak.
A breathing apparatus needs to be replaced every 15 years, according to standards set by the National Fire Protection Association.
“By May 2019, all of this equipment will no longer be deemed safe to use,” Wdoviak said. “We were aware of this, so we applied to FEMA.”
The grant, he said, is quite competitive, so there was no guarantee the department would receive the funds.
“The airpack is a lifeline to firefighters in the sense that you would not be able to go into a building or anywhere with contaminated air without using one of these devices,” Wdoviak said.
The airpacks get used any time there’s a chance of the firefighters encountering contaminated air, which includes carbon dioxide alarms and dumpster fires.
“Anytime there’s suspicion of a contaminated environment,” Wdoviak said.
The airpacks are kept with firetrucks, six to eight per vehicle. The department has a year to purchase them using the grant funds. Wdoviak said the department will train on the new equipment when it arrives. Even though the department members are currently trained to use airpacks, there are slight differences between the units made by various manufacturers.
The Brandon Fire Department serves an 82-square-mile area including Brandon, Leicester and Goshen. It has about 29 members.
According to FEMA, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant has been used since 2001 to assist firefighters, non-affiliated medical services and other first responders in purchasing equipment.