Area fire departments thankful for equipment grants

  • Capt. J.P. Kennedy of the Whately Fire Department with turnout gear and radio accessories at the Whately station. A $10,499 state grant will permit the department to purchase boots, coats, helmets and breathing apparatuses for a new firefighter, along with radio equipment. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A gang charger for portable radios at the Whately Fire Station. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2022 11:39:44 AM

As part of the state’s Firefighter Safety Equipment Grant program, many Franklin County and North Quabbin departments received money to fund equipment replacements, ensuring firefighters are properly and safely outfitted while on the job.

Departments across Franklin County received more than $230,000 from a total of $5 million distributed to 306 Massachusetts fire departments, according to state officials. The North Quabbin towns of Athol, Petersham and Royalston received nearly $40,000.

The money can be used to buy an extensive amount of equipment ranging from personal protective clothing like boots and helmets, to rescue gear like saws and thermal imaging cameras.

Whately Fire Chief John Hannum said the $10,499 awarded to his department will be spent on outfitting the department’s newest firefighter as well as boots, coats, helmets and breathing apparatuses, along with some new radio equipment. Since the grant was recently awarded, Hannum was unsure of when the equipment would arrive, but “it won’t take long.”

“It’s awesome,” Hannum said. “Things like that are important when working at a fire.”

He noted the grant came at just the right time as the new firefighter begins and the department can upgrade any existing equipment as needed.

“We put a new firefighter on and that’s the way it happens,” Hannum said. “It’s always nice.”

The Shelburne Falls and Buckland fire districts — both led by Chief Herb Guyette — received $20,959 in a joint application to help fund the purchase of a new battery-powered Jaws of Life.

“It’s going to be great,” Guyette said. “It gives you more workability to do your job without having the constraints of a hose. With these you can go as far as you want.”

The two departments have been considering a new Jaws of Life since Guyette became chief four years ago, but the cost has been the biggest hurdle.

“We’ve been mulling it over since (I became chief), and a little bit before that,” Guyette said. “They’re not cheap.”

Guyette said the Jaws of Life will be shared between the two departments as the Shelburne Falls Fire District is called for mutual aid when extrication is needed in Buckland.

“We work tightly together as any department around here does,” he said. “It made common sense to funnel our money together.”

Guyette said the departments could receive the equipment “by the end of February,” but with supply chain issues affecting the world, he said they’ll have it “hopefully by spring.”

The Athol Fire Department received $18,985 that will go to a new fit test machine for masks and respirators, and new dry suits for water rescue operations, according to Chief Joseph Guarnera. “We needed to replace this stuff,” Guarnera said, “and we haven’t had the budget to do so.”

Guarnera said he’s submitted the order and he is waiting on final confirmation. He added the fit test machine will allow the department to be “more effective” and efficient in outfitting its firefighters, while the dry suits were “dramatically” needed.

“All departments are finding themselves in a crunch,” Guarnera said, “and because of grants such as this, it makes it easier for chiefs to purchase equipment they need.”

The Firefighter Safety Equipment Grant Program is a multi-year grant program put in place by the Baker-Polito administration. The money comes from a $25 million bond bill and the maximum amount awarded to each department is based on the number of residents served, according to the program’s application form.

The full list of departments and money in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region is as follows: Athol, $18,985; Bernardston, $10,500; Charlemont, $8,953; Colrain, $10,500; Erving, $8,136; Gill, $10,500; Greenfield, $19,000; Hawley, $10,500; Heath, $10,500; Leverett, $8,728; New Salem, $10,500; Northfield $9,531; Orange, $15,500; Petersham, $9,103; Rowe, $9,953; Roylaston, $10,500; Shelburne Falls and Buckland fire districts, $20,959; Shelburne Fire District, $8,812; Shutesbury, $10,341; Sunderland, $12,463; Turners Falls Fire District, $15,000; Wendell, $10,500; and Whately $10,499.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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