Franklin County fire depts. garner grants for protective gear, washing machines

  • Grants totaling $920,000 have been awarded to 174 fire departments across the state, including those in Franklin County, to purchase new safety gear and gear cleaning machines. Staff File Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Grants totaling $920,000 have been awarded to 174 fire departments across the state, including those in Franklin County, to purchase new safety gear and gear cleaning machines. Staff File Photo/Shelby Ashline

Staff Writer
Published: 12/16/2019 10:22:32 PM

Grants totaling $920,000 have been awarded to 174 fire departments across the state, including those in Franklin County, to purchase new safety gear and gear cleaning machines.

The grant awards were announced last week by Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. According to a state press release, the gear will help to reduce firefighters’ exposure to carcinogenic chemicals on the job.

“Many fire departments across the commonwealth are all too familiar with the increased risk of occupational cancers faced by fire service personnel,” Polito said.

The Baker-Polito Administration filed a bond bill to provide $25 million in authorization to continue funding similar grants and allow departments to purchase equipment, including turnout gear and washers/extractors. The Firefighter Turnout Gear Grant program will provide firefighters in 144 departments with new hoods and gloves for structural firefighting.

According to the release, these items will reduce exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in the head and hand areas, which are high-risk areas for dangerous chemicals to enter the body.

The Athol Fire Department was awarded $2,490 through the program to purchase two sets of gloves for each department member, Chief Joseph Guarnera said. This will allow firefighters to have a back-up pair in case they are called out while one set is being cleaned.

“Anytime there is an incident, you use your hands and feet the most,” he said. “They get the most contaminated.”

Some of the recipients of grant funding for washers/extractors are purchasing regional-use machines, so multiple departments will have access to them. All washers/extractors will meet the standard set by the National Fire Protection Association, which delineates specific types of machines that should be used to effectively remove chemicals after each fire.

The Shelburne Falls Fire District will be one of the stations housing these new machines for regional use. Shelburne Falls Fire Chief Herb Guyette said seven departments, including Shelburne Falls, applied together to get the gear washer and extractor at his station. The other six departments are Buckland, Shelburne, Colrain, Heath, Ashfield and Leyden. Guyette said the department is waiting to select the machine, which Guyette estimated will be delivered to the Shelburne Falls station by late February or early March.

“With the ever-increasing risk of cancer to firefighters, the need to clean our gear after large fires, or contact with any type of contaminant, is important to decrease the risk of cancer,” Guyette said.

The Turners Falls Fire Department received $2,415 from the grants, which will purchase complete coverage firefighting hoods for all its members, according to a press release from the department. Such hoods are worn by firefighters to protect their heads, necks and ears from being burned in a fire.

According to the Turners Falls Fire Department, more firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer in the last two years then in the previous 10 years combined.

“Cancer is unfortunately prevalent in the firefighting community,” said Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan, whose department also received $2,415 to purchase 23 hoods for its firefighters. “We’re trying to figure out what’s causing this, and limit exposure to cancer-causing products.”

Other Franklin County fire departments awarded grants include: Charlemont, $372; Gill, $3,900; Leverett, $2,685; Leyden, $2,040; New Salem, $2,550; Rowe, $372; and Shelburne, $3,947.76.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.


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