LONGMEADOW – The Fire Department was recently awarded a $188,852 Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Department of Homeland Security to outfit the entire department with new self contained breathing apparatuses used to help firefighters breathe during fire or rescue operations.
Fire Chief Eric Madison told Reminder Publications several minutes prior to the official grant announcement on May 5 that the town has received 21 to 22 air packs and 42 spare bottles for the breathing apparatuses.
“The breathing apparatus today comes with a whole new array of technology,” he explained. “It incorporates enhanced communication through the mask. It incorporates PASS [Personal Alert Safety System] devices, which are alarms that are activated when a firefighter remains still for a period of time.”
Madison said the air packs also incorporate a new tracker technology used to locate firefighters who “are essentially lost within a building” and to assist in finding them.
The new breathing apparatuses will replace the department’s 12-year-old equipment, he added.
“The bottles work at a higher pressure, giving us, without increasing the weight of the pack, longer work time in a building on a pack,” Madison said.
Congressman Richard Neal, during the grant announcement, said when the grant was applied for it had to “stand under a magnifying glass” because it is reviewed by firefighting experts to find a need for requested funds.
“I must tell you that based on my experience, one of the issues that galvanized was the loss of those six firefighters in Worcester [in 1999] and we’ll always remember what they saw at the end of that building that night because four of those six were my constituents at the time,” Neal said.
This event “spurred on” a notion of “what the future of fire service should look like,” he added. Breathing apparatuses combined with other advancing technology such as night vision goggles have helped firefighters remain safe when entering a burning building or home.
“It’s expensive,” he added. “The whole nature of firefighting has changed and I think as you go across all of New England, which were all reminded of, is the age of these old buildings. What is in the floor of these old buildings? It is dangerous to use firefighters to enter those premises.”
Madison said Town Manager Stephen Crane “really works hard to enable the departments” to be successful in their missions.
“The partnership of state delegation has paid off in many ways over the years for the town,” Crane said. “We also want to echo the chief’s sentiments; leadership is really your ability to inspire good people to do good things and certainly the town of Longmeadow Fire Department is certainly a perfect example of that.”
State Rep. Brian Ashe said he remembers bringing his now 17-year-old son to the Fire Department when he was three years old to learn about firefighting and to see a fire truck up close.
“My background is public safety, so this near and dear to my heart,” Ashe said. “I’ll tell you, you’ll get no better champion for public safety than you do with our congressman. He understands it, he gets it. It’s not just one community.”
On Sept. 29, 2014 the East Longmeadow Fire Department celebrated a grant for $70,200 from federal government, which was used to purchase 27 sets of new protective fire equipment. Neal was also present for the announcement.
Madison said during the grant process the town had to allocate $9,400, or 5 percent of the total amount of the grant, in order to obtain the additional $188,852.
The total amount of money the department has received for new breathing apparatuses is $198,252.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, awards the grant.
Ashe also congratulated Madison for his service to the town regarding his upcoming retirement on May 22.
Madison said the department’s new Quint fire truck, approved by residents at the Nov. 18, 2014 Special Town Meeting for $752,000, will be leaving a factory in California on May 9 and should be delivered to the town during his last week as fire chief.