Utica to receive $273,000 federal grant for Fire Department

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published August 24, 2016

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UTICA — City officials are celebrating the announcement of a $273,715 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program that will fund new air packs and turnout gear for the Utica Fire Department.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program’s primary goal is to provide financial help to equip and train emergency personnel, according to www.fema.gov.

Utica Fire Chief Kevin Wilseck said new air packs are a “dire need.”

When the Warren Fire Department received an Assistance to Firefighters grant for new equipment, Wilseck said, the old equipment provided parts to help keep the Utica Fire Department going. Getting the grant is a big development.

“This was like a godsend for us,” Wilseck said. “My hat’s off to Sgt. Bryan Orlowski and Inspector Randy Bawkon. I compiled all of the information, and they wrote the grant.”

Besides approximately 24 new air packs, the grant will fund approximately 32 sets of turnout gear, Wilseck said. Turnout gear includes pants, coats, helmets, gloves and boots — what firefighters need to protect them in a fire.

“We’re way overdue on them,” he said. “They were overdue when I got here as fire chief eight years ago. It’s a big deal.”

He said the Fire Department’s match for the grant is 5 percent, or approximately $13,000.

“We’re getting a lot (for that amount),” he said. “It’s a big boost in our department.”

After the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which includes FEMA, announced the grant for Utica Aug. 10, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller issued a statement applauding the grant.

“Our first responders put their lives on the line to protect ours,” she said in the statement. “Unfortunately, budgetary restrictions have made it increasingly difficult for local departments to provide the vital emergency services our communities rely on. I congratulate the city of Utica on this much-needed grant, and thank their first responders for their dedicated service.”

Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said the grant would be a tremendous help to the city and congratulated Orlowski and Bawkon for preparing it.

“We’ve been trying to do things economically,” she said. “It’s the only way to run our tiny city.”

Noonan said the city always is going after grants. The latest initiative, she said, is to secure funding to improve the pedestrian bridge connecting the city’s new parking lot to Jimmy John’s Field.

For more information about the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, visit www.fema.gov/assistance-firefighters-grant.

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