Local fire departments receive federal funds

Published 6:42 pm Friday, March 5, 2010

With a recent grant to the Rutledge Fire Department, Crenshaw County’s total funding from FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants to over a quarter million dollars.

“All told, starting in 2002 or 2001, we’ve had well over $1.5 million in grants to this county,” said W.A. Neal, Luverne’s assistant fire chief and vice-president of the Alabama Association of Volunteer Fire Departments.

This year, the Glenwood Volunteer Fire Department was the county’s top recipient with $100,045.

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Some $13,390 of that will go to equipment while $86,220 is for personal protective equipment.

“Ours is primarily for personal protective equipment, which means air packs and turnout gear for the firefighters,” said Glenwood fire chief Scott Stricklin. “We’re also going to get some communications equipment like radios and pagers.”

“This is the first time we’ve gotten this type of grant,” he continued. “It will be an extreme help for us. It allows us to have funds to be able to purchase other equipment that we couldn’t get otherwise. It relieves a lot of the burden from lack of funding.”

Rutledge Volunteer Fire Department received $77,653, which will also go toward personal protective equipment.

“We are going to use it for turnout gear,” said Rutledge fire chief Jeffrey Hilburn. “We’re going to equip every fireman with new gear and also buy more air packs that we use when we’re fighting fires.”

Honoraville Volunteer Fire Department received $71,749, with $36,100 for equipment and $39,425 for personal protective equipment.

The Luverne Fire Department received $17,351, and $15,564 will go for personal protective equipment while the remaining $2,700 will go for other equipment.

Fire departments from across the country apply for the grants early in the year, and results are usually announced sometime in the fall or early winter.

However, the first round of grants went out in January of this year.

Neal also said that the government puts up 95 percent of the grant, which is matched by a five percent local contribution.

“These grants are administered without politics, and it’s judged by other firemen based on need,” Neal said.

He also said that Alabama is traditionally one of the top grant-receiving states, and this year, Alabama trailed only Pennsylvania and New York in funds received.

The reason for that, Neal said, is because of the number of poorly funded fire departments in the state.

“We have a low tax funding for volunteer fire departments in Alabama,” Neal said.

With this year’s total so far for Crenshaw County coming to $266,798, the grants will almost surely have a big impact on local fire departments.

“We’ve had seven firetrucks purchased with government funds, and those run about $200,000 each, so our overall total so far may be closer to $2 million since the program started,” Neal said. “It’s really made a huge difference in the county equipment-wise.”