Essex Junction firefighters to get new breathing equipment with federal grant

Local News

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. The Essex Junction Fire Department has tried to secure funding to buy new breathing equipment since 2016.

Now, thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the department will receive $141,071 to buy 20 airpacks, 25 face masks and 40 oxygen tanks.

Essex Junction Fire Chief John Rowell said some of this vital equipment is 15 years old. Several of the airpacks and oxygen bottles have accumulated enough wear through the years that they’ve been taken out of service.

“They are at the end of their expected life,” he said. “Our bottles every year need to be what we call hydrostatted, and they’re out of date. They can’t be done anymore.”

The department applied for a federal grant in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to replace them. They didn’t succeed. So this year they tried something different — they hired professional grant writer.

“For three attempts, we tried doing it ourselves, and we kept getting knocked out early on,” said Lt. Richard Smith said. “That doesn’t help the taxpayers when they have to foot the whole bill.”

FEMA started its Assistance To Firefighters Grant program not long after the 9/11 attacks — almost 20 years ago. Many fire departments that bought new gear back then now need to replace it.

“That first grant came out, everybody bought new packs — kind of important for firefighters to be able to breathe while they’re doing their job,” Smith said. “And since then, we’re all kind of running out at the same time, so you’ll see the state, in whole, is getting a lot of these grants right now to replace the same exact items.”

The Poultney and Readsboro fire departments received funding in this round of grants, as well, and for the same reason — to replace breathing apparatus. Meanwhile, Thetford Fire Department received a grant to buy new portable radios and other communication equipment.

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