Probationary firefighter Nick Larson stands in front of the vehicles at the Madison Heights Fire Department. The MHFD recently received a federal grant for a wellness program.

Probationary firefighter Nick Larson stands in front of the vehicles at the Madison Heights Fire Department. The MHFD recently received a federal grant for a wellness program.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Madison Heights, Hazel Park receive fire grants through FEMA

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 22, 2021


MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — Both the Madison Heights Fire Department and the Hazel Park Fire Department were recently approved for federal grants that will help fund items improving the health and safety of their personnel.

Madison Heights and Hazel Park were among five communities across Southeast Michigan that received funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, also known as the AFG. The other three communities were Canton, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. In total, nearly $800,000 was awarded to the five communities.

Madison Heights will receive $98,589, which will pay for a healthcare and wellness program. Hazel Park will receive $63,795 to purchase a new Source Capture Exhaust System.

The city of Madison Heights will make a 10% contribution to help cover the wellness program’s overall cost of $108,448. The initiative will include annual physical exams, cancer screenings, immunizations, and a behavioral health program. Funds will also be used to purchase new exercise equipment for both fire stations in the city.

The Madison Heights Fire Department currently has all budgeted firefighter positions filled, with a staff of 32 employees. Last year, the daily minimum staffing level was increased from six firefighters a day to eight.

Madison Heights Fire Chief Gregory Lelito said in an email that this is his department’s second attempt at a wellness and fitness grant. The department has received several other FEMA AFG awards in the past, which included hiring additional firefighters, purchasing new safety equipment, and educational material for fire prevention.

“The sudden passing of Captain Jeff Brozich (on duty March 1) emphasized to the entire department the importance of regular health screenings,” Lelito said. “The fire service is one of the most dangerous occupations. A high level of physical fitness and mental wellbeing are needed to perform the everyday tasks we perform. This award continues our efforts to make firefighter wellness a top priority. Last year, the department implemented a cancer prevention program, and the new funding will take our firefighter health and wellness initiative to a new level.”

At the Hazel Park Fire Department, the funds will pay for a Source Capture Exhaust System, which attaches to fire apparatus in the station’s vehicle bay, capturing the toxic exhaust fumes and safely removing them from the building. The current system at the fire station is 25 years old, approaching the end of its operational lifespan, so a replacement was needed.  

“Studies have shown that the exhaust gases stay in buildings for a lengthy period of time and cause cancer,” said Hazel Park Fire Chief Richard Story, in an email. “So there is a track system near the ceiling of the bay, and attached to the track is a corrugated hose that has a section that hangs down almost to the floor. That portion is hooked to the vehicle via a quick release attachment and around the tailpipe of the truck. When the truck starts, the vacuum that is attached to the other end of the track hose system turns on, and pulls exhaust gas through the hose and out the roof of the building, like a chimney. This hose stays attached and moves with the vehicle, up until it reaches the bay door, and then automatically disconnects.”

Story said that staffing remains a challenge for the department.

“Public service does not have the draw it once did,” Story said. “Here at the HPFD, we are fortunate that we have a stable workforce. We had one opening, but I was able to fill that position just yesterday (Aug. 11). We have come up with some creative ways to get applicants.”

He said that the department periodically looks for grants. Last year, Hazel Park received a FEMA AFG grant for new self-contained breathing apparatuses, or SCBAs. That grant totaled $126,000 and replaced all of the department’s SCBAs, which were 21 years old.

“I would like to thank one of my employees, firefighter Tony Galati — he wrote both grants, and without him, we would be repairing old equipment and looking for ways to purchase these items,” Story said. “Also, thank you to FEMA and AFG for having this grant system. This definitely helps lower-budgeted communities to operate with safe new equipment. We at the HPFD are excited to put this new system in place.”