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Federal grants help area fire departments

More than $5 million has come to the state through the federalAssistance to Firefighters program during 2002, but very little ofit has come to this area.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale said 107 statevolunteer fire departments have benefited from the program.

The program, which is administered by the Federal EmergencyManagement Agency (FEMA), provides grants for use in enhancement offire departments’ operations and safety programs, fire preventionprograms, emergency medical services and firefighting vehicles.

Robert Patterson, Lawrence County fire coordinator, saidLawrence County received two grants through the program.

Both the Sontag and Arm Volunteer Fire Departments were eachapproved for $10,000 grants last year, Patterson said.

“They were in pretty bad shape,” he said about the departments.”They had turnout gear, but not enough.”

The grant money is enough for about 10 full suits of turnoutgear, Patterson said. That is enough to completely provide for theArm firefighters and a majority of the Sontag firefighters.

“They will be pretty well outfitted now with what they had andthe new gear,” he said of Sontag’s need for the gear.

Patterson admitted competition for the grants is tough and theyare hard to get. Lawrence County submitted the same requests in the2001 funding year, but were not awarded any grants. In 2002, two ofthe five grant requests were approved.

Patterson said the county will apply again this year, but he hasnot coordinated with each fire department to address their needs.He does know, however, that Sontag and Arm intend to apply again,this time for air packs.

“We don’t ask for a whole bunch of money at one time and I thinkthey look at that,” he said.

In Lincoln County, Heuck’s Retreat and East Lincoln VolunteerFire Departments had requested funds for a fire truck in 2002, saidLincoln County Civil Defense Director Cliff Galey.

“We did not get any of those grants,” he said, “but that doesn’tmean we won’t try to put in again this year.”

East Lincoln was trying to offset the cost of a truck they hadalready purchased, which was delivered in November, while Heuck’sRetreat needed one.

Heucks Retreat was later awarded a grant through the state’sRural Fire Truck Acquisition Assistance program. It was approvedlast year, but the department is only now beginning to see thefunds, Galey said.

“I’ll be going before the board (of supervisors) Monday to askthem to advertise for the truck,” he said.

Galey said he will be meeting with the department chiefs laterthis month to determine what they will apply for in 2003.