A grant received by the Hazel Park Fire Department will help replace and update the firefighters’ self-contained breathing apparatuses — the oxygen tanks they wear on their backs while battling structure fires.

A grant received by the Hazel Park Fire Department will help replace and update the firefighters’ self-contained breathing apparatuses — the oxygen tanks they wear on their backs while battling structure fires.

File photo

Hazel Park Fire Department secures grant funding for new equipment

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 29, 2019


HAZEL PARK — The firefighters at the Hazel Park Fire Department can breathe a sigh of relief now that grant funding has been acquired to modernize their self-contained breathing apparatuses — the air tanks they wear on their backs as they enter burning structures.

The funding comes by way of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, or AFG. In Oakland County, more than $1.2 million in federal grants were awarded this year to three fire departments, with the aim of modernizing equipment and increasing staff.

Hazel Park’s share is $113,334. Northville received $471,838 and Auburn Hills received $443,106. In the past, Hazel Park has also been a recipient of another federal grant called the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program, or SAFER.

“The AFG grant will completely replace our current (self-contained breathing apparatuses),” explained Hazel Park Fire Chief Richard Story. “Our current ones will be outdated in 2020, so this worked out very well timing-wise.”

Firefighter Tony Galati approached Story and asked if he could try submitting an application for the AFG grant.

“I OK’d it, telling him that I was looking for (self-contained breathing apparatuses),” Story said. “Galati did a lot of work networking to write a quality grant request. We sent the grant into the government, and they have a board that reviews and awards grants. I guess we were in their criteria. Lucky for us.”

Previous grants received by the Hazel Park Fire Department include a 2006 AFG grant for equipment and personnel protective gear totaling $119,605, resulting in the purchase of a utility truck and new turnout gear; a 2008 AFG grant for $261,250 that purchased a new fire truck; and a 2013 SAFER grant that allowed the city to employ six new firefighters for three years, after which the city continued paying for them, with the city retaining all six positions.

Story said the support is appreciated since call volume continues to rise.

“I believe the EMS is abused more than ever,” Story said. “People call 911 for colds and illnesses that a family doctor would be able to address. However, I believe that people don’t have primary care doctors and rely on clinics and the fire service for that gap.”

Hazel Park’s fire staff comprises 21 employees. The minimum daily staffing is five per shift.

“I have one of the healthiest departments in Oakland County,” Story said. “Average age is probably around 32. Us older guys are getting ready to retire.”

The average response time for the Hazel Park Fire Department is three minutes.

“We take pride in getting out the door as quickly, safely and prepared as possible,” Story said.

“We are very fortunate to have excellent equipment,” the chief added. “Our vehicles are getting older and will need to be replaced within the next five years. But we are extremely diligent about taking care of our stuff and fixing things as soon as possible after it’s found deficient.

“As well as I can put it, it’s huge that we received this (AFG grant),” Story concluded. “Our equipment was at the end of its service life, and that saves my department’s budget $120,000. This (money) can be allocated for other important purchases. The fire marshal and myself need new vehicles very bad, so this savings can possibly be utilized for those vehicles.”

Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher commended the Fire Department for saving the city money.

“I want to thank our Fire Department for aggressively pursuing these grants,” Klobucher said. “These grants enabled our department to obtain desperately needed equipment and, in the case of the now-expired SAFER grant, maintain our manpower during periods of extreme economic distress.”

The chief said the recent developments fill him with pride.

“I am extremely proud and lucky to lead the personnel I have at the HPFD. We take our jobs very, very seriously, and we always try to have our best day while our clientele are experiencing their worst, with the outcome of making their day or life better in whatever aid we perform,” Story said. “We love to serve our community, and I believe that our community would reflect that if asked about us.”