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Vigilant Hose uses grant for new gear

Rebecca McClay
The Gazette

Volunteers with the Vigilant Hose Company in Emmitsburg will soon be protected from danger with brand-new masks, gloves, coats, helmets and boots, thanks in large part to a nearly $190,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Emmitsburg-based company applied to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program last year, and received news April 13 that it would receive the grant. Company volunteers have begun ordering the new gear, which should arrive in about six months.

The program is part of the federal government's effort to better equip the nation's fire departments and emergency responders following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Vigilant Hose Company No. 6, organized in 1884, has about 58 active volunteer firefighters and about 100 other volunteer members.

Volunteers share about 20 face masks of various sizes. The firefighters know which size mask to grab when responding to fires, but a particular size may be in short supply.

"There may be 20 people with large face sizes, but we don't have 20 large face masks," said Tim Clarke, the Vigilant Hose Company volunteer firefighter who wrote the grant application for the company. "If it doesn't fit, gases can come around the seal and cause harm."

The company will buy about 48 masks, custom-sized for each firefighter, at a cost of $300 each. Other purchases include about 40 sets of turnout gear, including gloves, coats, helmets and boots, to replace old gear. The company will also purchase a washer and gear drying system that will speed cleaning and improve gas, smoke, oil and grease removal from gear.

"Now, the gear goes into a conventional washer and dryer," Clarke said. "That's just not made to get out all the contamination."

The entire purchase will cost $205,133; according to grant rules, the Vigilant Hose Company is responsible for paying $20,514.

"Our entire organization is pleased with this award and is excited to be able to continue providing the best possible fire protection to the citizens of Emmitsburg and our surrounding communities," Clarke wrote in a press release.

The Assistance for Firefighters Grant Program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Domestic Preparedness in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. The money assists rural, urban and suburban fire departments throughout the country and is used to increase the effectiveness of operations, health and safety programs, new fire apparatus, emergency medical service programs and fire prevention programs.

The program will award $750 million to 8,000 emergency responders nationwide. The grants are announced every Friday.

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