Federal Grants Awarded to Trio of Volunteer Firefighters | New

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Beyond the two paid municipal departments in the towns of Hanceville and Cullman, first-response fire coverage for most of Cullman County comes from one of 26 volunteer fire departments that operate without subsidized support. of a connected local government entity.

Instead, fire dues from residents of each department’s coverage area help fund each department’s operations each year. Ask any local volunteer fire chief, and they’ll tell you the money doesn’t go very far – especially when the cost of even basic response equipment – not to mention the response vehicles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – can run upwards of $4,000 per set.

That’s why recurring grants are a routine part of the funding structure that helps keep each volunteer department equipped and ready to respond. The county’s rural departments depend on federal funds, usually sought with the assistance of the Cullman County Office of Economic Development’s grant writing, for day-to-day basics that help volunteer firefighters do their unpaid work.

Three local departments recently received grants through applications submitted through the Firefighters Assistance Program (AFG), a FEMA-supported program that for 20 years has helped first responders get “the , protective equipment, emergency vehicles, training and other essential resources. necessary to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards,” according to the AFG.

Five-figure grant amounts may not seem like a lot, but the funds make a world of difference in preventing local services from deploying members into potentially dangerous situations with aging and deteriorating equipment. In the last round of grants, West Point received $68,571; Garden City received $33,981 and Battleground received $47,571.

What can you do with that kind of money? All local departments must specify how the funds will be used when they apply for grants, and the West Point award will help fund the purchase of new portable radios, according to Fire Chief Tim Martin. At Battleground, the funds will be used to purchase an on-site compressed air filling station to refill firefighters’ SCBA air packs – a chore that recently required Battleground volunteers to carry their air packs to other fire stations in the county.

“We had a little one, but it almost disappeared,” said Battleground Fire Chief Ryan Woods. “It’s a little secondhand, but it will allow us to get one for our department, as it wasn’t ideal having to travel to other departments to get our SCBA bottles filled.”

Tiffany Oldacre, a former county economic development grants administrator who helped secure the trio of recent grants, said federal funds go through a chain of custody overseen by the office of U.S. House Representative Robert Aderholt (R -Haleyville), and they’re crucial to keeping the county’s volunteer fire network stocked with equipment their small budgets simply couldn’t afford.

“Most of the departments in Cullman County are strictly voluntary, so they have to rely on fire dues – which isn’t a lot, in terms of the equipment they need and the price they have to pay for it. that. Fire equipment can be very expensive and, of course, it eventually wears out and needs to be replaced. These grants help with funds that can be used directly in the communities where these volunteers live and serve every day – and the Cullman County Volunteer Fire Departments are an integral part of their communities.

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