Federal grant to mostly pay for Gurnee firefighters' upgraded air packs
Gurnee has scored a nearly $229,500 federal grant toward the purchase of upgraded safety equipment for firefighters.
Deputy Fire Chief John Kavanagh said Monday the promised federal money will allow the village to replace 14-year-old air packs. The packs allow firefighters to enter smoky or hazardous conditions without risking suffocation or chemical exposure.
"We would not be able to make the purchase without this grant being awarded," Kavanagh said.
Gurnee will receive the $229,469 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It's part of what federal officials say is a Homeland Security effort to bolster the country's preparedness level and ability to respond to emergencies.
Fire Chief Fred Friedl said he was "extremely pleased" to learn Gurnee will receive the federal grant.
"It will enable the department to enhance the safety of our fire personnel with quality equipment that provides future technology and meets national safety initiatives," Friedl said.
Gurnee will buy 39 high-tech air packs with masks custom fitted for each firefighter. The equipment can monitor the location of a firefighter and provide information about its operating condition to identify potential malfunctions.
Kavanagh said the fire department expects to receive the new air packs in 2015. While the current breathing equipment is tested and considered safe, he said, it has outlived its usefulness.
"Finding parts for obsolete equipment is always difficult," he said.
Kavanagh and others at the fire department wrote the grant proposal and submitted it about a year ago.
He said the $229,000 awarded to Gurnee will pay 90 percent of the new air packs' cost. He said the village will cover 10 percent of the tab.
Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the federal cash for the air packs will free up village money for other local needs.
Other suburbs have received similar federal grants. For example, Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District was awarded $372,149 for 55 new air packs.