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Grant to give Fire Department breathing space

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 4, 2016

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Sterling Heights city officials recently received the fresh air of good news when they learned that federal firefighting aid could help replace compressed air filling stations at two Sterling Heights fire stations.

The city announced in June that the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program is sending more than $176,000 in new grant money to the Sterling Heights Fire Department. According to the city, the grant requires a 10 percent city match.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Fire Department qualified for the aid under the category of operations and safety, according to the city.

At a June 21 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool thanked Assistant Fire Chief Rob Duke for his help in securing the grant money. Vanderpool also commented on the equipment that the city plans to acquire, which will help firefighters by filling up their compressed air tanks.

“These are very costly pieces of equipment, and we’re glad to get them funded through grants,” he said.

Officials said the Fire Department plans to appropriate about $110,000 from the latest aid package to replace old air filling stations at fire stations No. 1 and No. 5. The air filling stations’ compressors fill bottles that each give firefighters about 15 minutes’ worth of air to breathe while they are putting out fires, according to Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin.

“We have two (air filling stations) in the city,” Martin said. “Both of the compressors that we have are old and are frequently out of service for repair. … Each are over 25 years old.”

But Martin said it will likely take a couple of months to go through the rest of the process before the new equipment arrives at the fire stations.

The city will have to put out bid specs to vendors and go through a bidding process. Then the City Council will need to approve the purchase, and the federal government will need to sign off on it too, Martin added.

“There is a lot of grant guidance that we have to follow, and we’ve got to get a good pricing,” he said.

Martin said the rest of the new grant money will allow the city to keep funding its effort to keep its firefighters checked for medical conditions and health factors through the Wellness and Fitness Initiative.

“Last year, all 83 firefighters got a comprehensive physical,” he said. “We’re going to do that again. This will fund that for another year.”

Martin said the Fire Department has previously received money from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant that has been used to pay for health screenings, healthy living education and exercise equipment. The Fire Department has an interest in preventing heart attacks and strokes among firefighters, he said.

In May, the Sterling Heights City Council also approved the use of previously unspent AFG money on firefighters’ Fitbit Blaze fitness watches.

For more information about Sterling Heights, visit or call (586) 446-2489.