New York, NY -- The fire district of Watkins Glen, New York is 58 square miles. Only some 20 percent of their area – roughly 12 square miles – is equipped with fire hydrants, posing a major challenge to Chief Smith, the department’s fire chief. “We and our mutual aid partners are heavily dependent upon mobile water to execute our firefighting obligations in this rural response area,” he says.
“On top of that,” he adds, “the equipment we had put together to serve as our tanker truck, starting with a Volvo cab and chassis back in 1986, had become too unsafe in October of last year to continue operating.”
The award of a $285,000 grant, then, from the Assistance to Firefighter Grants, a unit of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to purchase a new tanker truck is of great value to Chief Smith. The local share is $15,000, totaling $300,000 in funding.
The decrepit tanker that stopped working last year could pump 125 gallons per minute. “The new vehicle,” he said, “will be able to pump a minimum of 750 gallons per minute, and give our 50 volunteers the ability to rapidly establish a water supply that will lead to vastly improved firefighting capabilities.” He added that the implications for enhanced saving of lives and homes were “undeniable.”
The Grants Chief of FEMA’s Region II, Dale McShine, announced the Watkins Glen grant here today. “The AFG program has been assisting firefighters and those they serve for more than a decade, and this grant continues to demonstrate the spirit and purpose of the program,” she said.
Watkins Glen Village sits on the edge of Seneca Lake, one of New York’s famous Finger Lakes. The region has a State Park, and offers camping, hiking, boating, wine-tasting, and other festive attractions, drawing numerous summer vacationers. The area is also home to the renowned Watkins Glen International Racetrack that attracts many NASCAR fans. Not surprisingly, the area’s population more than doubles every summer from roughly 10,000 residents.
“This AFG grant naturally increases the effectiveness of Chief Smith’s volunteers in his large fire district,” said R. Mark Swinnerton, Jr., mayor of Watkins Glen Village. Noting that Chief Smith’s department averages more than 700 alarms every year throughout Schuyler County, the mayor said that “this new tanker truck adds formidable strength and reach to the department’s capabilities. We all benefit, residents and visitors alike.”
FEMA’s AFG program has been aiding firefighters and other first responders since 2001. “The program provides critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards,” said Tania Hedlund, FEMA’s Grants Branch Chief. In 2012, the AFG provided funding of $25,340,000 out of FEMA’s Region II office (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).
For further information, contact William H. Douglass at 212-680-3665/917-561-3223.
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