New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Grants help city firefighters get new gear
WEST HAVEN — City firefighters can breathe easier with the receipt of new equipment funded by four federal competitive grants.
In total, the city received about $1.2 million from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money will replace and update equipment in the city’s three fire districts. Among the most crucial are new self-contained breathing apparatuses for firefighters.
According to Allingtown District Fire Chief Michael Terenzio, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that the breathing apparatuses be replaced every 10 years.
But city grants writer Doug Colter said that, for the Allingtown district, there is not enough money in the budget to shoulder the burden of replacing the breathing apparatuses, which would mean the department would have to lose a firefighter to cover the costs without the federal grant that covers most of the expenses for new apparatuses.
He said the $373,000 in grant funding for the apparatuses in all three districts covers most of the $411,000 bill for 57 new breathing apparatuses, which only reflect those that will expire this year.
Terenzio said the apparatuses, which contain 4,500-PSI containers of oxygen, are essential to the job of a firefighter entering a smoky structure.
“We can’t do what we do without these,” he said.
Terenzio said one time on a job he got “turned around” with no visibility and he relied on the apparatus to give him the oxygen he needed to escape.
“Without this, we don’t survive,” he said.
The grant funds will also provide the Center Fire District with a new pumper truck, the West Shore District with an upgraded diesel fume exhaust system and an air compressor and training for the Center District.
Colter said Allingtown already received the funding for a new pumper truck in a prior funding cycle, but its bidding process got sidetracked by the pandemic and issues with the manufacturer. He said that department is currently bidding for a new truck. He estimated the turnaround for the Center District to receive a new truck with its grant funding would be one year.
West Shore Fire Chief Stephen Scafariello said the department’s current diesel fume exhaust system is “very old,” and it plays a role in removing carcinogens from the air.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said that the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 was a historic anniversary that recognizes the bravery of firefighters, who run toward danger instead of from it. DeLauro said the committee raised the appropriations to the DHS for the firefighter equipment grant program by
$10 million in the next budget, for a total of $365 million in its homeland security budget.
The awards to West Haven were the largest in the region, although other local fire departments received Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program awards — including East Haven, Stratford and Guilford.
“Small cities like West Haven rely on this funding,” said Mayor Nancy Rossi.
DeLauro said that, with local and state budgets “stretched thin,” the federal awards to replace necessary equipment can help free up fire departments and other first responders to invest in equipment that can help respond to other challenges — such as the flooding caused to West Haven’s shoreline by both Tropical Storm Henri and the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which both caused storm damage to the city in the last month.