By Hope McKinney
The East Greenwich Fire Department has received two federal Assistance to Firefighters FEMA grants for a total of $460,000 – a windfall during the tight budget times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fire Chief Bernie Patenaude said the first grant, for $185,000, will go toward new self-contained breathing apparatuses (Air-Paks) for the firefighters. These apparatuses are a key tool to protect firefighters by providing breathable air in unsafe environments and can only be used for 20 years.
“Our older ones have to be replaced so that’ll save the town spending $200,000 of taxpayers money – so, that’s a good thing,” Patenaude said.
The other is a $275,000 regional grant for East Greenwich and North Kingstown. This will go towards emergency medical equipment, including a heart monitor, a CPR machine used to do CPR during transport, and two power-load systems to load stretchers into fire trucks. These load systems help prevent back injuries, Patenaude pointed out. North Kingstown will receive two of the CPR machines and four of the power load systems.
“These grants help us a lot because we were going do $88,000 in capital expenses over two years to buy the Air-Paks, and now the town only has to pay 5 percent of the total grant which is $175,000,” Patenaude said. “So, we’re gonna be just under $10,000 expense to the town instead of $175,000. So, it helps a lot.”
Town Manager Andrew Nota agreed. “The grants could not have come at a more timely moment.”
Patenaude is waiting to hear about two other grants the department has applied for. One, called a SAFER grant, would provide salary help for new firefighters. The department applied for money to cover three new firefighters and the grant would cover their salaries and benefits for three years. The second outstanding grant is for a new fire engine.
Patenaude said work for the department slowed when COVID-19 first broke out, but their workload has picked back up and they’re catching up to their regular numbers. He also said there was one employee who tested positive for the virus in May and was put on quarantine until he could come back. Several others have been quarantined due to exposure, but Patenaude said, minus the vacancies, the department is at full strength now.
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