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Murrysville, neighboring emergency crews receive state grant money

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Nearly $58,000 in grants will furnish local fire departments with new equipment, iPad tablets and truck upgrades.

Last month, five local fire departments and an ambulance company received state grants ranging from $7,000 to $13,600. A total of 123 departments in the Westmoreland County received grant money last month from the Pennsylvania Fire Company and Ambulance Service Grant Program.

“For a small department like us, if we don't get these grants, we don't get new gear,” said Neal Nichols, chief of the Export Volunteer Fire Department.

Fundraising is a huge part of being a volunteer firefighter, said Joey Paiano, chief of the Sardis Volunteer Fire Department in Murrysville. His department plans to use the $13,350 it received to do some maintenance on equipment and buy new hand tools.

“It kind of takes a bit of the weight off of us,” Paiano said. “That's $13,000 that we don't have to fundraise.”

Statewide, $30 million was awarded to 2,535 fire and ambulance companies.

Among the projects departments could use the money for are facility construction or renovation, the purchase or repair of equipment, training or to pay off debt.

In Export, the $12,389 will buy new protective outerwear — often referred to as “turnout gear” — for six firefighters, Nichols said. The last time the department bought new gear was in 2006 with a federal grant, Nichols said.

At the Murrysville Volunteer Fire Department, $13,619 buys iPad tablets with vehicle mounts for four trucks and new pagers for firefighters. Representatives of the fire department couldn't be reached before deadline, so it's uncertain how the tablets will be used.

The money originated from slot-machine revenue, state fire Commissioner Edward Mann said.

In total, the state received 2,600 applications this year, most of which were approved.

Departments submit applications beginning in the fall. Grants are awarded in January, and departments are required by September to file reports detailing how the money was spent.

Fire companies are eligible for a maximum $15,000. Ambulance services can receive up to $10,000, Mann said.

The money is particularly helpful, given the high cost of fire equipment, Mann said, including $2,200 for protective clothing, $4,000 to $5,000 for a self-contained breathing-apparatus unit, $350 for boots and $95 for gloves.

“At the end of the day, it (the grant money) helps,” Mann said. “It doesn't solve all of the financial issues, but it goes a long way to help.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz and Karen Zapf are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Kurutz can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com. Zapf can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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