NEW YORK — “We normally carry 1,000 feet of two and one-half-inch hose on each of our two engines and our ladder truck. But we are no longer able to do it and that’s not safe,” said Fire Chief Dan Smith of the Hornell, New York Fire Department.
“We used to have 3,250 feet of usable hose,” he said, “but we’re now down to 2,500 feet. The trouble is that we bought this hose, which is expensive, in the 1960s. It’s aging and it must comply with the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association or be taken out of service, Chief Smith explained.
“What’s worse,” he said, “we’ve had a number of hose lines burst while we’re on the job.”
But the chief was most pleased when he received confirmation this week that his department will receive an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) in the amount of $19,315.00 to purchase 3,250 feet of new hose and an assortment of new nozzles. With the local share of $965.00, the grant totals $20,280.00.
The AFG program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Dale McShine, the director of FEMA Region II’s Grants and Preparedness Division, which awarded the grant, said she was “glad to have been able to be a part of providing such critical elements of a firefighter’s job.”
The Hornell Fire Department has 23 full-time paid firefighters, all of whom are cross-trained as emergency medical technicians. The department responds to more than 3,575 calls per year, many of which are for emergency medical services, for which the department is amply equipped with advanced life support equipment, including cardiac monitors.
Hornell’s Mayor Sean Hogan is delighted with FEMA’s grant. “That hose was nearly 40 years old,” he said, “and it simply had to be replaced.” If it weren’t for the AFG, he added, “We would have to add almost one percent to our local tax budget to cover the cost, which would be a hefty hit.” The mayor went on to say that if it were not for programs like to the AFG, local budgeting can become a “pretty catch-as-catch-can process.”
Located near the Finger Lakes, some 120 miles southeast of Buffalo, Hornell is a rural community of 46 square miles with 12,700 residents. The department also provides fire suppression and mutual aid services to an additional population of 36,280 in neighboring towns and villages.
Chief Smith says that he places a good deal of emphasis on fire prevention through house and apartment inspections, and promoting smoke detectors at schools and elsewhere. He adds that the department also provides smoke detectors to the largest at-risk group of residents over 65. His firefighters install these detectors and offer safety tips about falling, burns, and the like.
“You can never point to a fire or an accident you’ve prevented,” Chief Smith observes, “but it’s certainly true that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.”
Tania Hedlund, FEMA’s Region II Branch Chief for Grants reports that in fiscal year 2014, the Region awarded 273 grants, totaling $95.6 million.