NORTH ADAMS >> When firefighters are battling a blaze, they need dependable hose that can withstand intense pressure and bring water to the flames.
This month, seven North County fire departments were collectively awarded a $174,373 federal grant to replace their aging hoses through the Department of Homeland Security's Assistant to Firefighters Grant Program.
With assistance in grant writing from Emergency Response Consulting and support from U.S. Rep Richard Neal, D-Springfield, the departments won the program's regional grant and will match it with about $17,000 of their own funding. The hose that is purchased with the grant funding will be divided between the departments as necessary, according to North Adams Fire Director Stephen Meranti.
In a process that begins months before the grant is awarded, local chiefs work together to assess the departments' needs and work on the application from there.
"There is a lot of preparation that needs to be done," said Amalio Jusino, president of the locally based Emergency Response Consulting.
Instead of applying for each department's laundry list of needs, they work together to find a single item that could be useful to everyone.
"We found that everyone needed hose," Meranti said.
Although all departments test their hose annually, as the hose gets older "there's always the risk of failure," according to Meranti.
The cost of the hose can range from $125 to $700 for a 50-foot length of hose. Without grants, small departments like those in North County wouldn't be able to provide the services that they do, Jusino said.
"It's big money for a lot of the smaller departments around here to replace hose," Meranti said.
This was the second consecutive year the North County fire departments won the regional grant, with last year's proceeds being used toward communications equipment.
The departments — Williamstown, Clarksburg, Florida, Cheshire, Adams, North Adams and Stamford, Vt. — are mutual aid partners, and all but North Adams are volunteer. The bulk purchasing of hose also ensures that they can tie into each other's lines when responding to a fire call together.
Meranti and Jusino credited Neal for always being a staunch supporter of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program and to local fire departments.
"I have been an outspoken advocate for the firefighters in Western Massachusetts for many years, and will continue to support the important work they do each day in their communities," Neal said in a recent statement announcing the grant. "When there is a fire or an emergency, they are the ones who run toward the danger."
The North Adams Fire Department also won a local grant for $22,000 to purchase 11 sets of turnout gear — the protective clothing the firefighters wear when responding to a call. Each set of turnout gear — which does not include their breathing apparatuses — can cost in excess of $2,000, Meranti said.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.