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Sewickley Township, neighboring fire stations to receive grant money

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Volunteer fire departments in Sewickley and South Huntingdon townships and Smithton will share in about $17,600 in federal aid designed to help rural communities prevent fires in forests and other undeveloped areas, the state Bureau of Forestry said this week.

Smithton fire Chief Joel Ribniscky said the fire department plans to purchase jackets and other gear for fighting forest fires, as well as several pieces of hose for the department's six-wheel vehicle. The six-wheel former military vehicle allows the department access to difficult terrain.

The Lowber fire company was awarded the maximum grant of $7,500, while Sewickley Township Fire Co. No. 1 in Herminie received a $3,790 grant. Herminie fire Chief Eric Kline and Lowber fire company officials could not be reached for comment.

Paul Rupnik Jr., Sewickley Township Emergency Management Services coordinator, said he was not certain what the fire companies intended to buy with the grants.

The Yukon fire company in South Huntingdon received a $2,558 grant, the state said. A Yukon fire official could not be reached for comment.

The federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, funneled through the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, provide 50 percent of the cost of the expenditure.

The local fire departments were among nine fire departments in Westmoreland County that received almost $38,000 in federal grants under the program. Local firefighting forces in rural areas or communities with fewer than 10,000 residents qualify for the federal aid. In 2013, the state awarded $505,000 to 130 volunteer fire companies.

Statewide, more than $590,000 in grants will be awarded to 158 volunteer fire departments under the program. The federal grants allow firefighters from smaller companies to concentrate more on public safety and training while easing their fiscal constraints, said Ellen Ferretti, conservation department secretary.

The grant program focuses on providing money for better equipment and training of volunteer firefighters to save lives and protect property in rural areas. Grant recipients are selected based on vulnerability and adequacy of existing fire protection.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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