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Grant allows Marengo Fire and Rescue to plan big

The South Marengo Fire and Rescue squad serves many purposes in the south part of the county and serves them well. Soon, their capabilities will be even greater as U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby announced the awarding of a $21,282 grant to help purchase equipment.

The funds have been awarded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Domestic Preparedness as part of the Assistance to Firefighters grant Program. This program will distribute $750 million in direct federal assistance to firefighters nationwide this year.

Shelby said he was glad to get another grant for a small town Alabama service.

“I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security has awarded these funds to South Marengo Fire and Rescue,” Shelby said. “It is critical that our federal, state and local governments work together to ensure that our first responders have the necessary tools to face an emergency quickly and effectively should one occur.”

The squad had applied for the grant last year, but said they were still pleasantly surprised by the announcement. Greg Rogers, who helps the fire and rescue in their quest for grants, said this is the second time fortune had smiled on the group.

“I had been told to expect it around Friday,” Rogers said. “This is our second grant. We got the first one in 2003 and applied again and won.”

Rogers said everyone was in suspense because the awards were coming down to crunch time.

“We were hoping it would come through and it finally did,” Rogers said. “I think they have 40 rounds of grants and this one came in round 36.”

The total grant will come to around $25,000 with the $21,282 in federal funds to be complemented with a 10 percent match by the fire and rescue themselves. Rogers said they already had several plans for the money

“The first thing we want to do is get a cascading system so we can fill up our air containers,” Rogers said. “That will cost about $14,000 to $16,000. That will be great for us because right now we have to go to Linden, Butler and Thomaston to refill them. This will be much better because we can fill them right in town and if there is an emergency they will always be ready.”

Rogers said the second major need was a backup generator. He said they knew this was a major issue and saw just how great the need was last September.

“We had applied for a grant to get this before Hurricane Ivan, but throughout it we really saw how great the need was for one,” Rogers said. “During Ivan we were operating around the clock and using some small backup generators. We really needed a good backup. Now, when we make that purchase we can stay up and running when the power goes out and have the capabilities to dispatch people.”

The fire and rescue has several other plans for the grant. One purchase will be a training manikin to give volunteers hands on training in the removal of car accident victims from damaged vehicles and the proper methods for bringing rescued fire victims down a ladder. Rogers said the manikin would be about 6’1″ and weigh 170 pounds to give a realistic feel.

The department will also use the grant to buy medical equipment. This purchase will enable them to put a medical kit on the fire truck. Currently, there is a kit on the rescue truck, but not the fire truck. They also plan to purchase three machines that check the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Probably one of the most important purchases will be a dump tank. Rogers said this allows the department to back a truck up to the tank dump water in it and have reserves.

“That will be important because it will give us a lot more water on the scene to fight fires,” Rogers said. “It will allow us to stay on the scene longer instead of having to go somewhere else to get more water.”

Rogers said they were thrilled with the announcement and are currently planning for next year.

“We are definitely glad to get it because it will allow us to get equipment we could not afford on our own,” Rogers said. “We are also already looking forward to the 2005 grants. Applications start next month for those and we intend to apply for a grant that will allow us to purchase a brand new fire truck.”

In Feb. alone over 20 fire departments in Alabama have received grants from the national program for a total of $1,761,987. The grants have ranged from $13,972 for the local Gainesville Volunteer Fire Department to $445,500 fro the East Alabama Water Sewer and Fire Protection District.