2015-07-27 / Front Page

Gaffney FD gets $224K federal grant

By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer

City of Gaffney firefighters will be able to breathe a lot easier thanks to a federal grant that was announced Friday.

With the help of $224,953 in Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the city fire department will soon obtain $236,200 in new air packs and other emergencyrelated breathing equipment for firefighters. The city’s share of the costs will be $11,247.

Gaffney Fire Chief Jamie Caggiano said the city had made new air packs a priority in each of its last two Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program applications since the city’s current air packs were nearing the end of their lifespans and were built to older standards.

Caggiano said he had been talking to city leaders about the need and noted, “We were going to have to fund the project with local tax dollars if we didn’t get the grant.”

The new air packs, which cost approximately $6,000 each, meet all the latest safety standards and come with some very modern safety features, Caggiano explained.

For instance, the new face masks that firefighters will wear have a heads-up display built into them so firefighters can easily see how much air they have left in their tanks.

The high-tech air packs also send wireless signals to incident commanders outside of a fire scene. The incident commanders, Caggiano said, will be able to use a tablet computer to see the air supply of every firefighter on the scene.

The new air packs also will come with new electronics built into the masks to improve radio communication as well as sensors that sound an alarm if a firefighter stops moving.

“They have some very good accountability and safety features to them,” Caggiano said.

The grant money will allow the fire department to purchase 36 of the new air packs, along with five Rapid Intervention Team bags, along with the harnesses, extra air tank cylinders and other necessary equipment.

The major grant award to the Gaffney Fire Department represented the largest single amount given to any fire department in South Carolina for the 2014 grant cycle, according to a review of the 2014 AFG awards posted on Friday.

“We are very appreciative for it and particularly want to thank Sen. Lindsey Graham and his staff for helping expedite this grant request,” said Gaffney Mayor Henry Jolly.

Caggiano said an air pack has a typical life span of about 15 years. Replacing all of the air packs at one time ensures all firefighters will be using the same equipment constructed to the newest safety standards. All of the connections on the latest air packs are standardized, too.

The way the AFG grant works is that the city will purchase the equipment and then seek reimbursement from the grant program, Caggiano explained. Caggiano said he is currently investigating air packs made by two manufacturers, Scott and MSA, before making a final decision on the purchase.

The Gaffney Fire Department, which wrote its own grant application, last received an AFG grant in 2012 for $10,000 worth of smoke detectors that were given for free to area residents. Prior to that, it last received an AFG grant in 2008.

“It’s a very competitive process,” Caggiano noted.

It’s still undecided what the city will do with its older air packs.

Some could be traded in, Caggiano said, some could be put up for auction on a government property website, and some could be kept for training purposes.

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