Fire department receives $166,000 federal grant

First Byline: 
Jonathan Vickery - Managing Editor

A $166,000 federal grant will help firefighters with the Barnwell City Fire Department breathe a little easier.
The department recently received word they were approved for a Assistance to Firefighter Grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
Fire Chief Tony Dicks said the funds will purchase 22 new self-contained breathing apparatuses, which are valued at $175,098. The grant will pay 95 percent - or $166,344 - but the department is responsible for $8,754.
While the department has enough apparatuses for all firefighters, Dicks said most are 14 years old. The new ones will be compatible with six the department received from a state grant in 2006.
"It's going to really make an improvement for the safety of the volunteer firefighters in my department," said Dicks of the breathing apparatuses, which are part of the gear firefighters use for their jobs.
The new ones provide 15 more minutes of airtime for firefighters, which Dicks said can make a huge difference when fighting a fire. They are also more lightweight, can connect to each other if a firefighter is running out of air, clearly show how much air is left, have more comfortable face pieces, and have a safety feature that can show if someone is in trouble.
This is the biggest grant the department has received, according to Dicks, who constantly applies for grants. The department has previously bought hoses, a generator and hazmat equipment with grants. Dicks has also applied for a grant to purchase a brush truck to help with brush fires, but has not heard if the request was successful yet.
Dicks recently went to Washington, D.C. to encourage lawmakers to maintain funding for the federal grant program, which has decreased in recent years.
"We feel we're in good shape as a rural department," Dicks said. "I'm proud of our department."