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Madison Heights

April 22, 2013

Madison Heights Fire Department receives FEMA grant

Funding will aid in purchase of self-contained breathing apparatus

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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Madison Heights Fire Department receives FEMA grant
Madison Heights Fire Chief Greg Lelito showcases the current self-contained breathing apparatus used by his department. Thanks to a federal grant that will pay for 90 percent of the cost, they will be able to update their air packs, which have a lifespan of 15 years and are approaching their expiration date.

MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights Fire Department has been awarded a federal grant that will help purchase new equipment for life-saving fire operations. 

The competitive grant of $149,040 is part of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This will cover 90 percent of the $165,600 price tag on a full replacement of the MHFD’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), an assembly of air bottles, masks and harnesses that firefighters wear during structure fires. The equipment is also utilized by the hazardous materials team and the technical rescue team.

The city will pay for the additional 10 percent they applied for but did not receive.

The timing is impeccable, said Madison Heights Fire Chief Greg Lelito, because government regulations limit the lifespan of SCBA air bottles to 15 years, and the packs currently used by the MHFD were purchased in July of 2000.

This is the second time the city applied for the FEMA grant to update their SCBA. The first time was in 2011, when they were denied. 

“By 2014, we needed to have this money, which is a significant amount, given the financial times we’re in now,” Lelito said. “And the grant is becoming more and more competitive, with so many cities around the country in financial distress, and more departments depending on this kind of funding. We’re happy it came through this time.”

Other fire departments in Southeast Michigan that received FEMA grants include Inkster ($720,000), Lincoln Park ($32,262), and Southfield ($31,720).

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin helped secure funding for the program at the national level.

“We’re very appreciative of any support our elected representatives give us in this process,” said Madison Heights City Manager Ben Myers.

Any fire department is eligible to apply for the funding. FEMA has specific criteria that prioritize the levels of importance for the different kinds of funding requested.

FEMA’s top priority is funding protective gear and equipment, such as SCBA, which plays a crucial role in the safety of firefighters as they come to the rescue of others.

Other funding categories include training for firefighters, and firefighter wellness and fitness, as well as EMS options, such as paramedic training, equipment, protective gear, facilities, wellness and fitness, and vehicles.

Regional organizations can also apply for the program. Madison Heights is part of a mutual aid arrangement called OAKWAY, which applied for FEMA funding covering radio communications. At press time, it had not yet been announced whether the request, authored by Royal Oak, had been approved.

As Madison Heights works out its proposed budget in the coming weeks, one item that will be discussed is the provision of an additional $10,000 to pay for special air packs used by the Rapid Intervention Team. The city applied for $176,400 in FEMA funding but didn’t receive the full amount, so city staff is recommending council consider shoring up the difference to complete the project.

The MHFD is currently staffed by 27 people, including the chief, fire marshal and swingman, and runs in three platoons with a six-man minimum. The new gear will help.

“SCBA is a critical piece of safety equipment for our fire personnel, so we’re very happy the grant was available,” Myers said. “I want to commend the work of Chief Lelito in preparing the application and following up to get us this funding. We’re living in an age of shrinking resources and decreasing revenue, so I think it’s important we remain vigilant to find grants for the city and make good use of the money.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.