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Fire departments vying for Homeland Security grants

Lincoln and Lawrence County firefighters are busy determiningtheir most pressing needs in hopes they can secure a federalgrant.

The application deadline for the Department of HomelandSecurity’s 2005 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is April8, with awards beginning in the summer.

Firefighters nationwide will be vying for $650 million allocatedto the program this year.

Area departments have been able to take advantage of the programin the past to upgrade or replace needed equipment.

“I think this upcoming grant in the fourth one. Bogue Chitto andHeuck’s Retreat were the first county departments to receive thisgrant last year,” said Clifford Galey, Lincoln County firecoordinator.

The two departments used the funding for turnout gear, airpacks, radios and other miscellaneous equipment. Heuck’s Retreatreceived $65,000 for the equipment, while Bogue Chitto was awarded$50,000.

“It’s a very good program,” Galey said. “It allows us to improveour equipment to respond faster and better protect ourfirefighters. We have several departments putting applicationstogether.”

Galey said it was too early in the application process for himto be able to identify what departments would be seeking the grantthis year – or what their needs would be.

Lawrence County departments have experienced a little moresuccess in securing the grants but have asked for less money.

According to Robert Patterson, Lawrence County fire coordinator,both the Sontag and Arm departments have received $10,000 grantsfor each of the last two years. Both used the combined $20,000 topurchase turnout gear, air packs and other equipment.

Patterson was still working with department chiefs indetermining who would apply and what type of equipment they wouldseek.

“We don’t know yet. We’re still working on that,” he said. “Itwill be a hard thing to decide. There’s a lot of need, and somedepartments say they don’t have the match funds.”

Third District U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering is a supporter of theprogram.

“Homeland Security grants are a great way for first responderslike firefighters to receive funding,” he said. “Over the past twoyears we have awarded over 110 grants totaling more than $6 millionto fire departments in the Third District.”