New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Grants help city firefighte­rs get new gear

- By Brian Zahn brian.zahn @hearstmedi­

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.

 ?? Brian Zahn / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, on Monday.
Brian Zahn / Hearst Connecticu­t Media U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, on Monday.

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