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Volunteer Fire Company in Rural NJ To Get New Turnout Gear

Release date: 
September 24, 2014
Release Number: 
Region II PR 14

25 Firefighters on Duty 24/7 Year-Round in 50-Square-Mile District 

New York, NY -- “Eighty-four percent of our members have gear that is ten years old and the other 16 percent have no gear at all and are unable to receive training,” is the way Joseph Sterling, Captain of the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company, described the condition of his department’s personal protective equipment.  

An Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) to the fire company, however, reversed all that, providing the company with 25 sets of what is also called turnout gear, along with 25 face masks.  Also president of the Board of Fire Commissioners, Captain Sterling said, “We’re excited, and relieved, with this grant.  It saves the taxpayers money and takes a lot of pressure off the commissioners.”  The federal share of the grant amounts to $75,644; the local share is $3,981.

The announcement of the grant was made here today by Dale McShine, Director of Grants for Region II of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the AFG program.  “FEMA offers these grants to fire companies large and small throughout our region,” she said. “We are keenly aware of how important safety is to all firefighters, and we are very pleased to take part in this program.”

The grant covers 25 complete sets of coats, pants, helmets, gloves, boots, and vests.  It also includes funding for the same number of face masks, the current shortage of which produces additional safety problems.  “The only masks we now have,” the captain explained, “are not assigned to individuals and are on our truck for anyone to grab.  This causes dangerous confusion on the job as members scramble to find the right size mask. This AFG funding will allow each of our members to be properly outfitted with the appropriate mask size, which is a big safety plus,” he added.

“Our fire district is pretty large, covering 50 square miles in Maurice River Township New Jersey,” Captain Sterling pointed out.  We’ve got a permanent population of some 4,725 residents, which swells by literally thousands of travelers headed for Cape May, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, and Ocean City during the summer.”  The district also covers two Corrections Department facilities, a food market and fueling station, three boat yards, a refrigeration repair business, a municipal building, a senior-citizen complex, an Office of Emergency Management, and a post office.

Captain Sterling was very pleased with the role FEMA played in the grant application phase.  “FEMA was a major help,” he recalled, saying that FEMA personnel “walked us through the entire paperwork procedure.  We really appreciated that.”

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 for FEMA’s Region II (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).

For further information, please contact William H. Douglass at FEMA: 212-680-3665 or 917-561-3223.

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Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:06