Fire grants may lower policy rates

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Two Lawrence County volunteer fire departments have been awardedmore than $185,000 in Department of Homeland Security grants

Topeka-Tilton Volunteer Fire Department, which includes thesubstation at Center, will receive $24,320 while the Silver CreekVolunteer Fire Department will claim the lion’s share with a$162,925 grant.

The grant could mean major savings on fire insurance in the nearfuture for Silver Creek residents.

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Billy Ray Jenkins, chief of the Silver Creek department, saidthe money will be used to purchase a new Class A 1,250-gallonpumper.

“That’s what we have to have to get to a level eight (firerating),” he said. “That’ll bring a big reduction in fire insurancepremiums for homeowners in our area.”

The truck alone will not ensure the improved rating, Jenkinssaid, but the other changes are minor and primarily involveestablishing paperwork procedures.

“By the time we get the truck we should have everything elsedone,” he said.

Department officials began looking at new trucks in June afterHomeland Security requested some specific information from the firedepartment that typically indicates it was successful in pursuingthe grant, Jenkins said. He expects to have the specifications forthe new truck completed in about two weeks.

“It’ll still be six to eight months before we can have the truckdelivered,” he said. “It takes time to build them.”

The new truck will replace a 1977 Pierce custom-built pumperthat has been out of commission for nearly two years, the chiefsaid.

“Because it was custom-built all the parts were specially made.Now we can’t find parts for it,” Jenkins said.

A Pierce company representative is scheduled to meet withdepartment officials in a few weeks to review the specificationsfor the new truck and will compile some additional information onthe ’77 Pierce truck while here, Jenkins said. He will try tolocate parts for the truck himself when he returns to the companyheadquarters in Wisconsin.

Should parts be found, the chief said, the department will keepthe old truck and hold it for in reserve for runs within the townitself.

The Silver Creek department also has a 1959 Ford 750-gallonpumper and a 1993 ambulance, which is used as a rescue van.

Charlie Turner, chief of the Topeka department, said the moneyfor his department will be used to purchase five full sets ofturnout gear, including air packs.

“This will be a tremendous help,” he said. “We’ve been having torotate some of the gear among the men during some of the worsefires.”

The grants were part of more than $5.5 million disbursed among53 fire departments in the state as part of the Assistance toFirefighters Grant Program. Homeland Security’s Office for DomesticPreparedness administers the program in cooperation with the U.S.Fire Administration.