United Communities VFD awarded federal grant
STEVENSVILLE — United Communities Volunteer Fire Department has been awarded its second federal grant in a month. On Wednesday, Sept. 7, Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin, both D-Md., announced United Communities will receive $199,222 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
United Communities President Ron Siarnicki said he was surprised but pleased. On Aug. 29, the volunteer fire department learned it had been awarded $368,250 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program for recruitment and retention. Siarnikci wrote both grants.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant will go to replace 28 sets of aging Self Contained Breathing Apparatus. The new SCBA gear will be fully compliant with National Fire Protection Association standards. The grant covers regulators, back plates, spare bottles and face pieces, Siarnicki said.
“It’s one of the primary tools that we use. It’s important to keep up with the latest equipment,” he said.
United Communities provides SCBA equipment on all its units for every riding position, Siarnicki added. The gear fits right in the back of the seats so it’s easy for the firefighters to attach it and go.
He wrote the grant to include for enough funds to allow them to purchase a spare set of gear to be used during training. Currently, when someone is in training, they have to take gear from one of the trucks, which leaves that unit short when responding to a fire.
Siarnicki said they expect to receive the money sometime in October, and a new round of grant funding will be opening up again in a couple months.
The old units, which were also purchased with federal funds, will be surplused once the replacements arrive, Siarnicki said. They may go to departments that don’t currently have breathing apparatus or to those with older, more outdated equipment.
“You need to be able to breathe and see to fight a fire, and this grant will enable the purchase of self-contained breathing apparatuses, face shields and air filters that will keep firefighters on Kent Island safe in emergency situations,” said Cardin. “I am proud to fight for the federal investments that helps make sure that the brave men and women safeguarding our families have the tools they need to protect our communities and make it home safely to their own.”
Mikulski, who each year champions an increase of federal funding for the fire grants program, said, “I know how important this funding is to Maryland communities – often it’s the difference between life and death. First responders protect our homes and communities, and the federal government has a responsibility to protect them by providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs safer and smarter.”
The AFG Program of the DHS, Federal Emergency Management Agency is an important component of the larger, coordinated effort to strengthen the Nation’s overall level of preparedness and ability to respond to fire and related hazards. Since 2001, the AFG has provided approximately $6.4 billion in grants to first-responder organizations to obtain much-needed emergency response equipment, personal protective equipment, firefighting and emergency vehicles, and training. Over the course of 2016, the AFG will award $304.5 million to first-responder organizations that need support to improve their capability to respond to fires and emergencies of all types.
Since 2001, Queen Anne’s County fire departments and emergency medical services units have received $3 million dollars from the AFG. Statewide, Maryland has received $196 million in the same period.