Having the proper firefighting gear and equipment can be key to protecting those who protect their area’s residents and properties from fire and destruction, and one local fire department has received a grant for more than $100,000 to do just that.
CC Camp Volunteer Fire Department, whose main station is on CC Camp Road near the Elkin Airport with a substation on N.C. 268, recently learned it will be receiving $101,000 grant to fund 21 sets of firefighter turnout gear and an air bottle fill station with a compressor. FEMA funds 95 percent of the cost for the equipment and gear, while the department will pay for five percent.
“That’s one of the largest one’s we ever got,” said Chief Lanny Whitaker of the grant, which has been awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. “FEMA’s one of the hardest to get.”
He said the department received a similar grant about about years ago for around $70,000.
The gear being purchased will showcase a new look for CC Camp firefighters as it will be black gear with orange reflective stripes. Each set of gear costs about $2,700 to $2,800, and includes a helmet, hood, coat, pants, gloves and booths.
With 48 member on the roster, the grant will dress almost half of the firefighters. The fire department’s “board of directors came up with a strategic plan to replace our gear, so we are going to replace three to five sets of gear on a state grant each year,” said Whitaker, who explained the state grant is a 50-50 matching grant requiring the department to foot half of the bill for each set of gear purchased, or as he sees it, the department buys one set and gets a second set free.
Every 10 years, the firefighters’ turnout gear ages out of compliance with the guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association, which are used by most fire departments including CC Camp.
“With purchasing three to five each year, we hopefully will have it all replaced in the next few years,” said Whitaker. He explained that the department does have a few sets of gear which won’t need replacing until 2020, but the other sets are out of compliance.
“We asked for 28 sets with the grant, and they awarded us 21. Right now we have 35 sets coming out of date,” he said. “Most of the gear, if it’s used, its lifespan is 10 years. It gets dirty, and the more you wash it, the less safe it becomes. We could be held liable if they’re using out-of-date gear and get hurt. It is possible insurance wouldn’t cover it.”
The air bottle fill station, which is a cascade system, includes a compressor so it will fill itself, meaning the department won’t need to have air delivered to fill the station. Now the department has to drive its air bottles to Elkin Fire Department to get them filled.
The department also has applied for a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant, which Whitaker said the department had until a couple of years ago and is trying to secure again. The SAFER grant monies are used to help reimburse firefighters so they are paid per call they respond to, and the new grant includes a request for funding to pay per training attended.
“All of this is part of our goal of trying to work on lowering our insurance rating for the citizens in our district,” said Whitaker. “We are a 9S rating now. If we can lower it to a 6, it will save 30 to 35 percent on homeowners insurance for our residents.”
A third grant the department received was found online by one of its younger firefighters, Jonathan Young. The no-match grant is from Project Breathe by Invisible Fence company, and it provided three sets of pet oxygen masks for the department. The firefighters now have access to one on each engine and one on the medical truck.
In an effort to continue raising funding to purchase the needed equipment to lower its district’s ISO (insurance) rating, CC Camp will be sending out a letter fund drive campaign to its district’s residents next week, Oct. 4-10, for National Fire Prevention Week.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.