The Hughesville Volunteer Fire Department was named among four fifth congressional district recipients of a grant from the Department of Homeland Security in a press release from House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer’s office Monday.
Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) announced that the Hughesville department, along with the College Park Volunteer Fire Department, Prince George’s County Fire Department and Berwyn Heights Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, received a collective $415,000 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant offered by DHS.
Hughesville received the requested $53,886, while College Park got $17,619, Prince George’s $272,727 and Berwyn Heights $71,429.
“The funds awarded through these grants will allow local departments to purchase new equipment and ensure our firefighters have access to the tools they need to do their jobs safely,” Hoyer stated in the release. “I commend these departments for their hard work to keep our communities safe, and I will continue to advocate for the resources they need.”
Matthew Herbert, deputy fire chief at the Hughesville VFD, said the grant money will be used to replace the Jaws of Life, the hydraulic tool used to extricate people trapped in automobile crashes. The existing equipment is more than 30 years old, Herbert said, and “are used pretty frequently in our response district as well as in the areas of our mutual aid partners.”
Replacing the equipment, Herbert said, has a clear and simple benefit for everyone: It will enable the department to be able to save lives more quickly and efficiently. Today’s cars are not built the same as they were 30 years ago, when their existing equipment was purchased, which can lead to unanticipated delays at a time where seconds count.
“Automobiles today have improved safety features that make it difficult to use 30-year-old tools on them,” Herbert said. “We have actually had instances where the tools were not able to cut through parts of newer vehicles. The grant award means that we can replace these aging tools with the latest technology in extrication equipment which will enable us to be prepared to extricate people from the newer vehicles.”
Herbert said that last year the department received $43,320 to replace their nearly 40-year-old breathing equipment air compressor with a new one they’ve recently installed at the station. That device, Herbert said, is used to refill the bottles for the self-contained breathing apparatus used by first responders. Having the new compressor decreases the time it takes to fill the bottles, Herbert said, “and better ensure the safety of our members.”
Prince George’s Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady said in an emailed statement that his agency would use its grant to fund a training program. The training “will allow our department to standardize mayday procedures and life saving actions if a firefighter becomes lost, disoriented, injured, low on air, or trapped during a fire,” Brady wrote.
“The Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services department goal is to train 30 local instructors, using the IAFF master instructor and Fire Ground Survival (FGS) train-the-trainer program,” Brady wrote. “These 30 local instructors then will deliver the training to the entire department — 900 members — using the trailer and props already purchased by the department. The trailer not only holds the props, but also serves as an elevated prop for the bailout and others skills taught in this program. Overall, after the initial train-the-trainer events, the goal is to train all 900 firefighters within the first year.”