WESTFIELD – The Westfield Fire Department received two grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that will have a big impact on the safety, health and quality of life of city firefighters.
Fire Chief Patrick Egloff said he applied for three FEMA grants this year and is waiting for a decision on the third.
“Receiving two grants is fairly unheard of,” he said.
One grant is COVID-19 related and is a matching grant of $61, 025. The city has to match 10 percent, for a total of just over $67,000. Westfield was one of 40 fire departments nationwide to receive a grant through the agency’s FY2020 Assistance to Firefighters Grant COVID-19 Supplemental program (AFG-S).
Egloff said he must accept the grant within 30 days and expects it will be approved at the next Westfield City Council meeting.
Egloff co-wrote the grant application with Deputy Chief Seth M. Ellis. He said the funds are specifically for personal protective equipment. Some of the grant funds will be used for reusable masks with changeable filters for every member of the department.
“We will also order gowns, gloves and anything we need to use on an ambulance call,” said Egloff.
Egloff said while he is not “expecting” a big surge in COVID positive patients, “you have to be ready for it.”
“1918 was the last time we had a pandemic like this,” he said. “Our emergency management and health department were proactive with getting us PPE. This is more of a stockpile so we have it.”
Egloff said the department had its share of coronavirus and two members are currently out because of the virus, a big decrease from March and April when at one point there were 10 members out because of COVID-19.
“I am expecting something of an increase in positive cases in the city, but I’m not expecting what we had in March and April – but we’re ready for it,” Egloff said.
AFG is one of three FEMA grant programs that focus on enhancing the safety of the public and firefighters with respect to fire and fire-related hazards. The AFG-S Program accomplishes this by providing financial assistance directly to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated emergency medical service organizations, and State Fire Training Academies for critical Personal Protective Equipment and supplies needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
A second grant for approximately $30,000 was also received recently. Co-written by Deputy Chief Eric Bishop, these funds will be used to purchase gear dryers, which will go far in protecting personnel from cancer-causing chemicals.
“What the fire service has faced in the last 15-20 years is a lot of cancer,” Egloff said. “Firefighters can be protected simply by washing their gear.”
Egloff said at one time, having dirty gear was a badge of honor, but today it is the opposite. Westfield Fire headquarters and the two substations have washers for firefighters, but no dryers.
“You can’t put it in a tumble dryer,” Egloff said. “It ruins them because of the many layers, so they have to hang dry.”
Until now, firefighters would wash their gear, then air dry.
“It would take 3-4 days to dry, even in our boiler room, which is warm,” Egloff noted. “With the gear dryer, they will be dry the same day.”
Dryers will be located in each station.
“We hope this will slow down cancer in the fire service,” said Egloff.