BELLOWS FALLS — The Bellows Falls Fire Department received a $142,858 federal grant to purchase 20 breathing apparatus sets for its firefighters.

On May 20, Vermont's congressional delegation – Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democrats Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch – announced that firefighters throughout Vermont will receive $679,285 through three federal grants. Two other grants include $500,000 for a firefighting training simulator at Vermont Firefighting Academy in Pittsford, and $36,427 for a firefighting hose and nozzles for firefighters in Springfield.

"This grant alleviates stress because when we get the new ones, it will be safer," said Bellows Falls Deputy Fire Chief Steve Cenate. "It's a critical piece of equipment for going into a hazardous environment and it's important to have the latest qualifications."

According to Cenate, the Bellows Falls department has not purchased a breathing apparatus since 2001 and the ones the department currently has are "out of compliance" as they are out about three compliant cycles, or in other words have missed about three breathing apparatus updates.

"A breathing apparatus is used in a hazardous area, like somewhere filled with smoke, going into a burning building, or other environments," said Cenate. "It's based on the atmosphere's conditions, when you can't just breathe normal air. Another example would be when there is a CO problem in a residence with high carbon monoxide levels."


According to Cenate, The Village of Bellows Falls puts in matching funds, and the department needs to place about $7,000 to reach $150,000 for the equipment. Cenate notes there is not technically a life span for this piece of breathing apparatus, but as technology advances the manufacturers make them easier to use and safer for firefighters.

Cenate said former chief Bill Weston applied for the grant last year for the same purposes, but it was not awarded to the department. Cenate said after Weston left, he made the grant funding application a top priority.

"We'd like to thank our local senators and congressmen. It's one of those things, I couldn't take $150,00 on a regular budget to buy 20 breathing apparatus, so it's a good thing this federal grant is in place," said Cenate.

Cenate said the department will go out to bid and review new equipment and will have one year to complete the process, which involves a "long paper trail." No decision has been made on what to do with the old equipment, but Cenate said they need to have a conference call with the FEMA district representative to discuss the government requirements regarding the equipment they are replacing.

Breathing apparatus, which sit in the back of the chairs on a fire truck, can breakaway when firefighters arrive to a scene of a fire.
Breathing apparatus, which sit in the back of the chairs on a fire truck, can breakaway when firefighters arrive to a scene of a fire. (Maddi Shaw Brattleboro Reformer)

"These federal funds will help ensure Vermonters have well-trained and dedicated firefighters throughout Vermont. Firefighters play an invaluable role in communities throughout the state and we are pleased to be able to help provide the resources they need to train and to safely fight fires," Leahy, Sanders and Welch said in a joint statement.

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275