Westmoreland fire departments awarded nearly $1.2M in federal grants
It took four years of applications, but the Crabtree Volunteer Fire Department and four neighboring Westmoreland County stations hit the jackpot this year to land a $417,022 federal grant to replace its “obsolete” radio system, said Chief Bill Watkins.
The latest round of funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters grant program included nearly $1.2 million for departments countywide — including the grant to upgrade radios in five area departments.
“Our radios are pretty obsolete and practically impossible to repair,” Watkins said.
Crabtree was the grant-sponsoring department, but Watkins said volunteer departments of Bradenville in Derry Township, Ligonier Valley Hose Co. 1 in Ligonier, Lloydsville in Unity, and Youngstown will share in the regional award.
Each department received money for new radio bases in their stations. Radios will be installed in more than 20 fire apparatus among the departments. Another 92 handheld, portable radios will be bought for firefighters.
“The upgrades are really needed in all of the departments,” Watkins said.
Lloydsville firefighters will not only get new radios but, along with South Greensburg firefighters, will receive a separate $272,857 grant to buy 39 self-contained breathing apparatus devices, according to Lloydsville Chief Brian Schultheis. Another grant of $39,676 will purchase thermo-imaging equipment and battery-powered rescue tools.
“For a lot of years, we applied and never seemed to get anything. Then last year, we were awarded $47,000 to replace our old hoses, and some of those were from 1987,” Schultheis said.
“(While) trying to obtain money for the much-needed hoses, replacing the radios, the breathing apparatus and the tools, we are also in need of a new tanker truck. We definitely were worrying about fundraising to do all of this,” he said.
Schultheis said the FEMA grants will allow firefighters to focus on fundraising for the tanker truck. That purchase is still likely more than a year away, he said.
“We’re really excited about getting these grants,” he said.
Other awards for Westmoreland fire departments include $45,190 for Bolivar, $117,333 for Fairfield, $148,571 for Harrison City, $47,143 for Hyde Park, $49,676 for Norvelt, $8,571 for Washington Township and $36,667 for Youngstown. The Rescue 6 Ambulance Rescue in Irwin received a $20,000 operations and safety grant award.
Among fire departments in Allegheny County getting grants: Dravosburg Company 1, $100,857; Elizabeth, $237,275; Forest Hills, $520,364, which was a regional grant award; Moon Township, $163,455; North Hampton, $56,282; and West Deer Township Company 3, $70,054.
Attempts to reach Forest Hills fire department officials for more specifics of its regional grant were unsuccessful.
West Deer plans to use a $70,504 federal grant to buy seven full sets of turnout gear for new members of the department. Hyde Park also is using its money for turnout gear, according to Assistant Fire Chief Nathan Baker.
“We will also purchase protective coats, pants and boots or even helmets as needed for the other active firefighters,” West Deer Chief Josh Wiegand said, noting the department has about 40 active firefighters.
It should take about six months to get all the equipment.
Washington Township Volunteer Fire Co. received about $8,500 that it will use for training, according to Fire Chief Clayton Murphy.
“Unfortunately, we were denied about $166,500 to replace our individual breathing equipment. All of it is at the end of its useful life,” he said.
In Armstrong County, the Lower Kiski Ambulance Service in Leechburg received a $30,021 grant.
Baker, the Hyde Park assistant fire chief who also works for Lower Kiski Ambulance Service, said the ambulance service will use its FEMA grant to buy two LUCAS chest-compression devices.
“They are reliable, and they don’t get tired,” Baker said.
In Fayette County, the Adah Volunteer Fire Department received a $72,000 award for operations and safety, and Uniontown received a grant of $95,238.
FEMA reports that grant funds can be used by organizations to obtain needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources required to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.