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Federal grant increases firefighter safety

Date: 5/4/2010

May 5, 2010.

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- Firefighters will be a bit safer in Agawam thanks to a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

Congressman Richard Neal announced the receipt of a $150,000 grant at the Agawam Fire Department last week. The target grant funded 30 new air packs in compliance with modern safety standards.

"This grant is noteworthy because members of the [department's] staff who wrote the application really [allowed it] to stand up to the critical magnifiers," Neal said, adding that legislators can only help see it through to "the finish line."

Firefighter Mike Penders explained he and Lt. B.J. Calvi completed a needs assessment to determine which equipment should be replaced.

"It was a collaborative effort between everyone who was here to procure the grant," Calvi said.

He explained the new 25-pound air packs include buddy breathing and rescue line apparatuses in order to increase safety and survival.

"I'm thrilled to get this award to reduce [the number of] our aging air packs and improve firefighter safety," Fire Chief Steve Martin said. He added personnel were previously using 13-year-old packs.

"In difficult economic times, we know how important this money is. It will purchase equipment we wouldn't have been able to afford," Mayor Richard Cohen said.

Funding has been allocated to the department for other projects, however. The mayor's proposed Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2011 (FY11) to 2015 includes allotments of $40,000 for an air compressor and $12,000 for a back-up generator in FY11.