Escalon Fire Depart­ment Awarded FEMA Grant

Escalon Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MARG JACK­SON mjack­son@escalon­times.com

An As­sis­tance to Fire­fight­ers Grant has been awarded to the Escalon Con­sol­i­dated Fire Pro­tec­tion District through FEMA, the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency.

Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello said the depart­ment was no­ti­fied re­cently that a grant they ap­plied for last De­cem­ber had been ap­proved.

“We ap­plied for a brush truck,” Mello said of seek­ing spe­cific grant

fund­ing. “We had ap­plied for a grant of $228,000 and we were awarded the stan­dard FEMA amount for a rig of that type, the stan­dard amount is $175,000.”

The fire district will also have to match five per­cent of the grant, but Mello said that is still a bar­gain.

“That means we will pay $8,750 for a new brush truck,” the chief ex­plained.

The depart­ment will have a year from the date of the award – which was an­nounced in Au­gust – to com­plete the pur­chase of the new truck.

“This will re­place a 1993 unit we have,” Mello added.

The cur­rent brush unit car­ries 190 gal­lons of wa­ter and 10 gal­lons of foam and has been pressed into ser­vice.

“This ve­hi­cle was never re­ally built for wild­land fires,” Mello said, not­ing that the new brush truck will be built to spec­i­fi­ca­tions for that wild­land duty.

“We can use it as a search and res­cue, it will be able to ac­cess ar­eas we couldn’t be­fore,” said Mello. “The new one will carry be­tween 300 and 400 gal­lons of wa­ter and will be uti­lized as a fire sup­pres­sion unit, it will be a four­wheel drive and we’re look­ing along the lines of hav­ing a higher ground clear­ance, more de­signed for off road work.”

Un­der the FEMA guide­lines, the depart­ment can’t lean to­ward a spe­cific man­u­fac­turer for the truck. Mello noted, though, that once the grant was awarded the depart­ment was con­tacted by sev­eral firms look­ing to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the rigs they have avail­able to see if they could meet the needs of the depart­ment.

“It was an hour and 20 minute call with FEMA to go over the list of com­pli­ance items, there are quite a lot of ‘do’s and don’ts,’” Mello said of work­ing with the fed­eral agency.

One of the re­quire­ments, for in­stance, is that the rig the new brush truck will re­place can­not be used for fire ser­vice again by Escalon, so they will look to do­nate it.

“This is ac­tu­ally the first suc­cess­ful FEMA grant we have ap­plied for since the 2007 As­sis­tance to Fire­fight­ers grant we got for breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus,” Mello added.

That grant, some 10 years ago, was for just over $125,000. Escalon has ap­plied for a FEMA grant ev­ery year, the chief said, but this year was the first time in a decade they have been awarded one.

“(Con­gress­man) Jeff Den­ham’s of­fice sent of let­ter of sup­port to FEMA, that cer­tainly couldn’t hurt,” Mello said of get­ting the leg­isla­tive as­sis­tance.

The grant is awarded piece­meal, with funds paid out to the depart­ment as they pro­ceed through the process.

“When you get a grant like this, the man­u­fac­tur­ers come to you,” Mello said. “We are re­search­ing the com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture this type of ap­pa­ra­tus.”

The chief is hope­ful that a de­ci­sion on the rig will be made within the next cou­ple of months, then they will be on track to meet the FEMA dead­line. It’s also a case where ev­ery cent of the grant must be spent on the brush truck; the depart­ment can “leave noth­ing be­hind” in terms of spend­ing all the grant money.

The ex­ist­ing brush truck is at Sta­tion 2, near Van Allen El­e­men­tary School along High­way 120. Mello said the time had come for its re­place­ment, but the only way the depart­ment could af­ford it was through a grant.

“It’s al­most neg­li­gent not to ap­ply,” Mello added. “The As­sis­tance to Fire­fight­ers grants grew out of 9-11. It was nice to get back on the win­ning side and for the next fis­cal year, we will try for a grant for PPE, Per­sonal Pro­tec­tive Equipment, for new turnout gear.”

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