Athol Fire Chief touts DHS grant for department

  • Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera, right, updated the Selectboard Tuesday on the status of several grants. One grant for nearly $230,000 received from the Department of Homeland Security will be used to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 10/17/2019 9:50:18 PM
Modified: 10/17/2019 9:50:07 PM

ATHOL – Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera went before the Selectboard Tuesday night with a positive report on several grants which have been received by the town’s fire department.

“This is a good night,” he began, as he started to review a letter from the federal Department of Homeland Security stating the town had been awarded a substantial Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

“I’m pretty proud of it,” he said. “The town of Athol was one of only five in the state that got an award for operations. Our award was $228.000. The closest to that was $85,000, so we did okay.”

The letter announcing the grant stipulates the town must match the federal amount with funds equal to or greater than five percent of the grant award, or $11,417. The money will be used for the purchase of 30 self-contained breathing apparatus, including 30 face masks with voice amps, sixty 30-minute carbon air cylinders, two search devices, two rapid intervention team packs, and three 60-minute carbon air cylinders, as well some miscellaneous equipment.

The new equipment, Guarnera explained, will bring the fire department up to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standards as far as self-contained breathing apparatus.

“We did not get the SAFER grant, which was for four additional firefighters,” Guarnera continued. “The government ran out of money, is what I was told. There was only a certain amount of money, and we didn’t make the cut.”

The chief also noted that town did not land a $600,000 grant for the purchase of a new pumper equipped with extraction tools.

Guarnera also updated the board on efforts to purchase new gear-washing equipment for the department.

“To get the washer and dryer installed will be around $21,000,” he said. “Washer-dryer donations were $9,325. Other donations which were given to us throughout the year for different things totaled $1,690. And then the local union of the firefighters donated $2,600. So, the total amount of monies is $13,615.”

“The reason I’m holding off on purchasing these,” Guarnera said, “is that we’re short $8,251, which we can get from another gift that we just received. But I had put in for a grant from the Leary Foundation. I applied for this grant back last November. I was notified about six weeks ago that we made it to phase two. Then I had to provide more information, and we made it to phase three, then to phase four. There’s only four phases. So, the awards come out Nov. 15. The Leary Foundation can’t tell us we have it or we don’t, because I already asked.”

If the town receives that grant, then the $13,000 in donations received can be used for the supplies that go with it, including the installation, and everything else. Guarnera said that is the reason he is waiting until Nov. 15 to order the equipment.

The Leary Firefighters Foundation was established in 2000 by actor Denis Leary, whose cousin was one of six Worcester firefighters to perish in the infamous Worcester Cold Storage fire on Dec. 3, 1999.

This Saturday, the monthly pancake breakfast fundraiser for the fire department will be held from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Athol Senior Center.

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