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Friday, July 10, 2015

Third Time a Charm for Marin County Firefighters

Third Time a Charm for Marin County Firefighters

Fire officials won approval of a $700,000 DHS ASSISTANCE TO FIREFIGHTERS (AFG) GRANTS after three years of applying for funds to replace critical breathing apparatus for firefighters.

July 10--Marin County fire officials won approval of a $700,000 federal grant after three years of applying for funds to replace critical breathing apparatus for firefighters.

County supervisors, saluting fire Chief Jason Weber and his staff for obtaining the funding, allocated another $494,000 for state-of-the art self-contained breathing masks and backpack air tanks that replace older models the county acquired from fire departments in Kentfield and Mill Valley, where grants had enabled purchase of new equipment earlier. The old equipment was better than even more dated gear then used by the county.

The grant comes from the Department of Homeland Security's "assistance to firefighters" program and covers more than half the $1.18 million tab to replace the fire service's self contained breathing devices. It will allow the department to buy about 180 new breathing units early next year.

"We're really happy that we have saved local taxpayers almost $700,000 by landing this federal grant," Weber said, noting staffers who worked for several years on grant applications included senior Capt. Ben Ghisletta, aided by colleagues in Mill Valley and elsewhere.

"When our personnel are protected well at emergency scenes, that means our residents are better protected," the chief said.

Capt. Ghisletta said it took three years and several grant applications, as well as collaboration with neighboring departments who had submitted successful applications, to get the federal government's attention. The grants are awarded to departments nationwide based on a variety of factors including population, local budget, call volume and age of existing equipment, among other issues.

"This will bring us up to current standards and allow us to stay universal with neighboring agencies as well as those in the region," Ghisletta said. "It's a win win locally and regionally."

Weber said the breathing devices are a critical component of a firefighter's safety equipment. The chief noted that firefighters wear the devices when entering areas filled with smoke or other gasses. "These airpacks allow firefighters to penetrate deeper into burning buildings to rescue trapped occupants or extinguish fires," Weber noted.

"The current units have served us well but are just about 15 years old now," he said. "Unfortunately the units are pretty expensive."

Assistant County Administrator Dan Eilerman noted administration officials are "very pleased that county fire received grant funds to help offset the cost for this important equipment, which was nearing the end of its useful life."

Copyright 2015 - The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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