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Fire chiefs receive wildfire grants

Funding being spent on safer, more efficient equipment

Recorder Staff Chris Curtis 
Greenfield firefighters finish off a small brush fire off Wisdom Way Sunday afternoon , one of multiple brush fires area departments responded to over the weekend.

Recorder Staff Chris Curtis Greenfield firefighters finish off a small brush fire off Wisdom Way Sunday afternoon , one of multiple brush fires area departments responded to over the weekend.

TURNERS FALLS — After the first brush fires of the season sprang up around Franklin County, area fire chiefs gathered at the Turners Falls Fire Station to receive Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants for equipment that will make fighting wildfires safer and more efficient.

For Shelburne, the grant means the department can replace its hand-me-down fire hose, designed for structure fires, with lightweight forestry hose that can be more easily hauled into a burning woods, said Fire Chief John Taylor.

South Deerfield Fire Chief William Swasey said his department bought wildland brush fire gear over 15 years ago with a similar grant — and will use the new grant to replace it.

Sunderland will be using its grant for personal protection equipment for its volunteer firefighters. “They’re going up (to brush fires) in street clothes and sneakers,” remarked Sunderland Fire Lt. Jim Tower.

And New Salem firefighters will get wildland firefighting boots, which are waterproof, heat resistant and more comfortable than conventional fire boots, when fighting brush fires in the woods for several hours.

Commissioner Edward M. Lambert Jr. of the State Department of Conservation and Recreation noted that his department oversees at least a half-million acres of wildlife areas. “We couldn’t do our job, as a state agency, without our volunteer fire forces,” he said.

Lambert expressed condolences regarding the fatal house fire in Whately Thursday morning, and acknowledged the importance of local volunteer fire departments.

State Chief Fire Warden David Celino, a former Colrain fire chief, spoke of how important it is for every firefighter in rural Franklin County to have the right gear.

“Our wildfires can get larger,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for us to have a 10-acre fire. If you’re not in appropriate gear for it, it becomes a personal safety issue.”

Celino pointed out that a 1920s out-of-control brush fire on the Montague Plains damaged much of Lake Pleasant. As the communities grow, he said, “we’re not just protecting trees and wildlife but the homes and lives of those who live around it.”

This year, DCR awarded 50 grants to local fire departments throughout the state. The grants are capped at $2,000 per fire department and require a 50-percent matching sum. They are offered to rural call or volunteer fire departments that serve communities of up to 10,000 people.

The 14 departments whose grants were announced Friday are: Turners Falls, Ashfield, Buckland, Colrain, Conway, Erving, Gill, Hatfield, New Salem, Northfield, Shelburne, South Deerfield, Sunderland and Williamsburg.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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