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New Haven VFD gets $91,200 grant

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

New Haven Hose Company, a volunteer organization that provides fire and rescue services to the City of Connellsville, has received a much-needed late Christmas present from Sen. Pat Toomey.

Toomey's office announced on Dec. 28 that a $91,200 Assistance to Firefighters Grant was awarded to New Haven Hose Company VFD by the Department of Homeland Security.

When Bob Topper, New Haven Hose chief, received word about the grant which was submitted several months earlier, he was pleased.

“They helped us out tremendously,” Topper said.

The money will go toward the purchase of 30 sets of turnout gear, which includes protective coats, pants, suspenders, boots, helmets, gloves and hoods for the firefighters.

Topper said the current turnout gear the firefighters are using dates back to the 1990s. The shelf life for turnout gear is generally 10 years.

“Hopefully, we'll get it ordered by the end of next week,” Topper said on Wednesday, adding that the fire company should receive the new gear within six to eight weeks.

“I'm pleased to announce this federal grant for New Haven Hose Company,” stated Toomey, whose office worked with New Haven Hose to assist with the grant application. “These volunteer firefighters put their lives on the line daily to ensure the safety of others. The least we can do in return is ensure they have reliable protective gear and equipment. I'm glad the Department of Homeland Security has recognized their needs and granted this request.”

“We have a pretty good relationship with Sen. Toomey's office,” Topper said, adding that they were also fortunate enough to received a similar grant last year to purchase $50,000 in radios.

Topper said the price tag to put turnout gear on one firefighter is approximately $3,000, and that does not include any firefighting equipment like masks and air tanks, which also tend to be expensive.

“Think of how many hoagies (sales) that takes,” Topper said, adding that the fire company still runs fire engines from the 1980s. “Thank God we get CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) money to help with fire apparatus.”

Topper said it's difficult for fire departments like New Haven Hose to keep their equipment up to date, because very few municipalities in the area foot the bill for their fire departments. He added that Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of volunteer firefighters in the nation.

“It's tough, and we're more fortunate than others,” Topper said of the competitive grant. “It's just the fact that we need personnel gear and that Connellsville is a distressed community.”

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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