Lee Fire Dept. safety tech to get upgrade with FEMA grant funds

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LEE — The Lee Fire Department has received nearly $225,000 in federal money to spend on lifesaving equipment.

The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, coupled with an $11,235 local match, will help fund an upgrade and replacement of 10 aging automated external defibrillators. AED devices automatically diagnose arrhythmia of the heart and apply electricity to establish a normal rhythm.

Lee Fire Chief Ryan Brown expects the new AEDs to be in service by mid-November. He said most of the money will be used to buy new, single-style, self-contained breathing apparatuses, replacing the current SCBAs firefighters strap on when battling a blaze.

The department's current SCBAs are a mix of types of breathing equipment, some nearly 20 years old, with a number of hand-me-down units gifted to Lee by other agencies as they upgraded their SCBAs.

"This [grant] will allow us to provide the highest level of respiratory protection to our staffing at all emergencies," Brown said in an email. "We are hoping to purchase, receive and train on this equipment and put it in service by this coming January."

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The fire chief added that the new breathing equipment will meet the latest standards for the National Fire Protection Association and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Lee was the only Berkshire County community to receive a FEMA award from the agency's round of funding from 2018 applications to the Assistance to Firefighter Grants program. Brown said the town previously received such a grant 10 years ago.

In all, FEMA awarded 23 fire departments in Massachusetts approximately $3.1 million in grants. The money will help provide the resources required to train and equip emergency personnel in order to meet official standards, increase efficiency and help improve firefighting in the commonwealth, according to FEMA officials.

Holyoke and Wilbraham were the other Western Massachusetts municipalities that received the firefighting equipment grants.

"With the acquisition of these funds, each department will be able to add more lifesaving devices to their fleets, ensuring both firefighter and civilian safety when a call comes in," U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-SPringfield, said in a statement.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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