Congresswoman Robin Kelly announced recently that 16 south suburban fire departments will benefit from federal grants totaling nearly $1.4 million.
Fire Departments in Chicago Heights, Steger, Flossmoor, Phoenix and Limestone served as the lead agencies when applying for the funds from FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.
“Strapped city budgets prevent too many local fire departments from making necessary equipment upgrades that are indispensable to fighting fires and protecting the safety of our firefighters,” Congresswoman Kelly said. “These federal investments will help fill in the gaps so that our communities, residents and firefighters are safer and better protected.”
A $479,489 grant was awarded to the Flossmoor Fire Department and will be used to purchase and install updated fire station alerting equipment for nine communities served by both E-COM and SouthCom dispatch centers.
Communities that will receive the advanced equipment are Flossmoor, Glenwood, Hazel Crest, Homewood, Matteson, Park Forest, Riverdale, South Holland and Thornton.
“The awarding of this grant provides significant relief to many south suburban communities that struggle to fund day-to-day operations,” said Flossmoor Fire Chief Christopher Sewell. “Without grant funding, the purchase of this lifesaving equipment simply wouldn’t be possible.”
The new alert system also provides an additional health and safety benefit to firefighters.
“Traditional alerting systems shock a firefighter’s system by causing a sudden dump of adrenaline to occur in their bodies when they’re suddenly awoken by loud irritating bells, lights, and speaker systems,” said Sewell. “Studies have shown that long term these stresses increase both cardiac and cancer related disease among firefighters. The new alerting system will provide a ramping of alert tones and lighting, significantly decreasing this stress.”
A $579,090 grant was awarded to the Steger Fire Department to purchase updated emergency breathing apparatus for Steger and three adjacent communities: South Chicago Heights, Crete and Beecher.
“This will not only help to secure improved safety equipment for our firefighters, four neighboring towns that rely on each other will now have the same breathing apparatus in an emergency scenario, and we will all be trained on the same equipment,” said Steger Assistant Chief Michael Long.
The Limestone Fire Department will use its $19,619 federal grant to purchase a special washer and dryer that removes cancer-causing soot from fire gear.
“We currently have a 25-year-old washer that’s constantly being serviced, and it’s hard to find parts,” said Chief Michael Whalen. “Our current washer can only wash one set of gear at a time, and our department has never had a dryer. We’ve had to point a fan to get our gear dry. The new equipment will wash and dry up to six sets, and firefighters can get back into gear within two hours’ time. It’s phenomenal equipment that will keep our guys safe and healthy.”
The Chicago Heights Fire Department received a $190,754 grant that will be used to purchase 62 sets of firefighter turnout gear.
“We’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Congresswoman Kelly for her assistance and the letter of recommendation she provided,” said Gregory Taylor, an engineer and paramedic with the fire department.
The Phoenix Fire Department will use its $107,309 award to purchase emergency breathing equipment.
“Firefighter safety is always paramount, and this will help us by leap and bounds,” said Chief Kevin Betton. “We’re extremely happy and will use the grant money to serve the citizens of the village to the best of our ability.”
Last week, Congresswoman Kelly announced that four south suburban departments – Calumet City, South Holland, Flossmoor and the Crete Township Protection District – would receive federal grants totaling $160,000 to support the purchase of air packs, turnout gear and fire station ventilation systems.
The purpose of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program is to strengthen the nation’s overall level of preparedness and ability to respond to fire and related hazards. During Fiscal Year 2018, AFG made $315 million directly available to fire departments, state fire training academies and non-affiliated EMS organizations to obtain much-needed emergency response equipment, personal protective equipment, emergency vehicles and training.