RI Fire Departments Team Up to Win $763k Federal Grant to Upgrade SCBA Air Packs

Jul 28, 2018 Issues: Rhode Island

Eight local fire departments are getting nearly $764,000 in federal funding to replace aging breathing equipment for their firefighters.

Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse joined members of the North Scituate Volunteer Fire Department and the Woonasquatucket Valley Fire League to celebrate the awarding of a new $763,810 federal grant to help eight fire departments in Scituate, Foster, and Coventry upgrade their personal protective equipment.

The federal funding is being awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.  The funds, which were supported by Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressman Jim Langevin, will be used to purchase a total of 123 state-of-the-art self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) air packs for firefighters from North Scituate Volunteer Fire Department, Chopmist Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Foster Center Volunteer Fire Company, Hope Jackson Fire Company, Moosup Valley Fire Company, Potterville Fire Department, South Foster Volunteer Fire Company, and Western Coventry Fire District’s Fire and Rescue Department.

All of the breathing apparatus units being replaced through this award were purchased prior to 2002, which exceeds the operational life expectancy of this equipment.

The new SCBAs will offer a wide array of advanced safety features to increase the safety and well-being of firefighters and improve interoperability of the departments within the region and beyond.  The 123 new units will include new masks, an air cylinder, backpacks and two spare cylinders for each firefighter.

“I commend these fire departments for joining forces to apply for this competitive grant and I am pleased to support their efforts.  This is essential life-saving equipment that will improve firefighter safety and public safety.  I especially want to recognize North Scituate’s Dennis Charland for his leadership in the grant writing process and the work of everyone who made this a priority and helped get it done.  Thanks to the teamwork of many of the folks here today, our firefighters, taxpayers, and town budget writers can hopefully all breathe a little easier,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee who helped make $350 million available for the AFG program in the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations law.

“These communities depend on their volunteer firefighters to keep them safe.  This funding will help provide those firefighters with important equipment to protect themselves on the job,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “I was glad to join Senator Reed to celebrate this award and recognize the service of Woonasquatucket Valley first responders.”

“Firefighters never hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way to protect their communities, and it is our duty to look out for their protection as well,” said Congressman Jim Langevin, a senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security, which oversees the AFG program.  “This award provides critical breathing equipment upgrades for eight departments in Rhode Island, defending firefighters from the hazardous smoke they routinely encounter on the job.  We owe it to these brave public servants to do everything we can to keep them safe.”

“The great thing about this award is that we are addressing a need today to help our volunteer firefighters from Foster, Scituate, and Coventry breath safe, toxic-free air as we work to protect the residents of our communities.  And, we are doing this in a way that eases the tax burden on our communities,” said Dennis J. Charland, Vice President of North Scituate Volunteer Fire Department #1.

Since breathing in the harmful toxins encountered at a fire scene is the leading cause of cancer and lung disease in firefighters, these SCBA units will greatly enhance the safety and well-being of the volunteer firefighters serving these communities.

Earlier this month, President Trump signed into law a bill backed by Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressman Langevin to help better protect firefighters from cancer risks.  The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (S. 382) establishes a national registry to collect occupational information and data to better understand cancer incidence among firefighters.  Congress appropriated $2.5 million this year for voluntary data collection and to better track firefighters’ health.