Thanks to Uncle Sam, a pair of suburban fire protection districts can forge ahead with buying new equipment to make their jobs safer and more efficient.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will award $372,149 to the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District and $10,450 to the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District.
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The Algonquin/Lake in the Hills district will use its grant to buy new self-contained breathing apparatus, the compressed air tanks and equipment firefighters wear on their backs while they battle flames.
According to Assistant Fire Chief John Gaughan, the grant is enough to replace all 55 of the district's air packs.
The existing air packs are at least 15 years old and in poor condition, Gaughan said. Due to their age, it's also difficult to find parts when they need repair, he said.
"Obviously, it's a very important piece of equipment," Gaughan said. "In order to enter a building that has either smoke or fire, firefighters have to be on breathing air."
The fire district hopes to have its new equipment by the summer, Gaughan said.
The Palatine Rural Fire Protection District will use its grant to buy a hydraulic loading system for the back of one of its two ambulances, Acting Fire Chief Rich May said Thursday.
"It's designed to increase safety and reduce the possibility of back injuries for our personnel," May said, adding that back injuries from putting stretchers into ambulances are among the most common in the industry.
The new system should be in place by the fall, and May plans to apply for another grant to outfit a second ambulance with the same technology.
The grant funding will be through the Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. The agency will award a total of $461,778 in grants from this program to Illinois fire departments and protection districts.
"Our nation's firefighters are called upon day after day to protect America's citizens," U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said in a statement. "As these brave men and women put themselves in harm's way to protect their communities ... we must ensure they are equipped with the best tools possible to do their jobs well."