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Currituck Fire-EMS nets $1M grant

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Friday, August 31, 2018

CURRITUCK — Thanks to a nearly $1 million federal grant, Currituck County firefighters soon will all be using the same kind of self-contained breathing apparatuses when they have to battle flames and smoke. 

Currituck Fire-EMS officials received word this week their application for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was successful. The agency plans to spend the $995,000 grant buying the latest in fire safety equipment, specifically new self-contained breathing apparatuses.  

"Needless to say, we couldn't be more pleased at this award," Currituck Fire-EMS Chief Chip Melton said Wednesday. "We're looking forward to moving ahead with the process of getting the equipment and getting it out there."

Deputy Chief Tim Riley submitted the department’s application for the FEMA grant, which requires a 10 percent match, in March. The federal agency awarded roughly $375 million in grants after receiving some $2 billion in requests, he said. 

According to Riley, Currituck needs new self-contained breathing apparatuses because fire departments across the county currently use three different types of the devices which allow firefighters to breathe in smoky conditions. Many firefighters also have to share face guards because there aren’t enough. 

"This has created a huge inter-operability issue," Riley said. "Now, (because of the grant) every fire department in the county will have the same standard equipment."

Riley said preparing the grant application required a lot of coordination between Currituck Fire-EMS and the county’s six volunteer fire departments.

"We had to get a lot of cooperation between the other fire departments and sell them on that this is really a good thing — and get the collaboration with the volunteer chiefs, as well as the county employees," he said.

Riley said he hopes the process of soliciting bids for equipment, purchasing it and getting it into firefighters’ hands is complete within six months.

Currituck Commissioner Paul Beaumont, a member of the Currituck Fire and EMS Advisory Board, indicated the FEMA grant will be a major boost to firefighting efforts in the county.

"We want to bring uniformity, we want to bring standardization and we want to bring inter-operability to the firefighting capabilities of the county," Beaumont said. "So, this was a major step in getting that done to the benefit and to the ultimate cost savings to the county."

The FEMA grant is the third Currituck has secured in recent years from the federal government.

The largest grant, which Riley said is for nearly $1.54 million, is helping fund 16 new firefighting positions for three years. Riley said the SAFER grant pays 75 percent of the firefighters’ salary and benefit costs for the first two years and then 35 percent of those costs in the third year. Currituck’s cost match for the SAFER grant is $954,000.

The other grant, which Riley said was for $137,000, helped pay for loading ambulances with the latest in cardiopulmonary resuscitation equipment. Riley said Currituck provided a 10 percent match for that grant.

Beaumont credited county leaders for Currituck’s success securing $2.6 million in fire and emergency service grants.

"It is a true tribute to the leadership and throughout the county in identifying and going after those grants," he said.

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