Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 27, 2004

Two local fire departments get grants

By Ryan Gueningsman and David Cox

Persistence paid off for the Winsted and New Germany fire department, which received a total of three grants amounting to more than $172,000.

“This is very exciting. This will help us out quite a bit,” said New Germany Assistant Fire Chief Steve Van Lith at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The first grant the New Germany Fire Department received was a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for $93,366 for the purchase of new equipment. The grant will cover 90 percent of the $103,740 cost of the items requested, which include a Cascade air system used for refilling compressed air bottles, 16 SCBA’s (the self-contained breathing apparatus worn by firefighters when they enter burning buildings), extra face pieces for the SCBAs, and 12 pairs of new boots.

“All of the equipment we are replacing has been around since at least 1991, and we would have had to start replacing some of these things even if we hadn’t received the grant,” Van Lith said. “I’ve been on the department for 23 years, and I’m still using the original boots that I got when I started.”

Van Lith told the council that members of the fire department and City Clerk Shelly Quaas have worked hard to prepare applications for the grants.

“This is the fourth year we have tried, and this is the first year we have received a grant,” Van Lith said.

The department will now have to get quotes from different sources for the equipment on the list, and submit documentation along with a formal written request to FEMA to receive the grant money.

The second grant was a $2,250 Community Partnership Grant from CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco. This is a 50 percent match and will be used for the purchase of 10 new pagers for the fire department.

Van Lith observed that the work involved in applying for grants is worthwhile because the equipment eventually needs to be replaced, and if grant money can’t be found, the money has to come from fire department service contracts, which are ultimately paid by tax dollars.

The grants that both departments received are from the United States Department of Homeland Security through its 2004 assistance to firefighter grant program.

The Winsted Fire Department has also been notified it will receive $78,300 in grant funds, with the total amount of its requests adding up to about $87,000.

This money will be used toward purchasing new “turn-out” gear, which is the firefighters’ pants, jacket, boots, hat, and gloves, commented Todd Stejskal of the Winsted Fire Department. Some of the funds will also be used for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

“The funds that we receive will be dedicated toward the turn-out gear and SCBAs,” Stejskal said. “The boundaries of the grant will be respected. Without the grant, we would not be able to do something to this magnitude with the budget that we have.”

This is also Winsted’s fourth attempt at receiving grant funds, noted Paul Herbolsheimer of the fire department. He said that the department has received grants from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources before, but never a federal grant.

The Cokato Fire Department also received a $67,284 grant through the program. Ten other fire departments across Minnesota were also awarded funds.

“This money will allow the fire departments to improve their operations and fire safety training, in addition to buying much needed equipment to better serve the people of Minnesota,” said United States Sen. Norm Coleman. “Our firefighters deserve every resource we can give them.”

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