Federal Emergency Management Agency
WARDSBORO >> The Wardsboro Volunteer Fire department received a $129,524 grant that will allow for necessary equipment upgrades.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the grant this week and Wardsboro Volunteer Fire Chief Chris Liller officially accepted the offer on Friday morning. Liller said before receiving the grant, the department was "optimistic yet skeptical" on their chances of receiving the funds, but sure enough FEMA found them worthy of such a grant.
"I can't tell you how huge this grant is for our department. It allow us to focus future funding for other things without the worry about how to find funding for this type of equipment," said Liller. "It was a real game changer for us to get this.
Liller said the department plans to use this grant money for 12 new self contained breathing apparatuses, which Liller says cost about $7,000 each. In addition, they will order 22 sets of personal protective equipment, which is the firefighter gear, at about $2,500 each. He noted that most of the breathing apparatuses were from the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the department has not had the funds to upgrade.
The breathing apparatuses are constantly tested and Liller said he is unsure about the lifespan of the equipment, but noted manufactures may no longer support the equipment if outdated. "We were getting to that point, even though maintained, there's that reliability factor. Equipment is becoming more innovative and manufactures are always improving things."
Wardsboro is not the only fire department struggling to find enough funding according to Liller.
"A lot of our gear was aging and like many small towns in the area, it's hard to come up with funding you need. This is very expensive stuff to buy and none of us have that kind of money kicking around," Liller said.
He also notes each year the town supports the department with funding, but the additional needs are expensive and grant writing is timely. He adds that the department's crew are taxpayers who often have other full time jobs and have much on their plate, with limited time to apply for grants that require devoted time and attention. He said the department debated higher a grant writer, but had someone within their own field that was able to step in.
Fellow Wardsboro fire fighter, Duane Tompkins filed the grant application. Liller said Tompkins probably spent up to 80 hours of his own time going through this "extensive" process. According to Liller Tompkins has had experience with grant writing, and volunteered to help the department with this procedure.
"Our entire department is really grateful for the amount of time he put into this, pretty much did single-handedly. We're happy for this opportunity, it's going to be a huge help," Liller said.
Overall the Wardsboro Volunteer Fire Department requested $136,000 and received $129,524. Liller said his department will make up the difference. Liller believes they will have access to the money shortly and will soon go out to bid for equipment.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275