On Friday, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced 326 grants to fire departments throughout the United States in the 22nd round of the fiscal year 2004 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. Eight of these departments were located in Indiana, one of which was the Brazil City Fire Department. They received an award equaling $26,100 for use towards fire operations and firefighter safety. The grants will ultimately total approximately 8,000 awards worth nearly $750 million in direct assistance to firefighters throughout the country.
This type of assistance is determined, among other things, by the clarity of the narrative portion of the application, the financial need of the department and the benefits that would result from the award. Many departments apply for these funds but there is a limited amount of money appropriated for this grant program.
This is not the first award received from this program by the Brazil Fire Department. In 2001 they received an award equaling $200,000 to purchase a new pumper truck. The chances of receiving that award were even more rare than this year's award. Only one out of every 10 applicants that requested assistance for a vehicle received an award in 2001. Some 19,000 departments across the U.S. applied for vehicles in 2001. Only 1,900 were awarded. Brazil received one of those 1,900 that were awarded.
In 2003 the Brazil Fire Department obtained an-other notable grant award for $84,078. Improving firefighter and fire ground safety for the Brazil firefighters by acquiring funds to purchase turnout gear and equipment such as coats, bunker pants, helmets, gloves and protective hoods for the entire department, and a system of replacement was established for such equipment, bringing Brazil's department in compliance with certain OSHA standards. Purchasing state of the art air packs with increased capacity for breathing air, and integrated safety devices provided further enhancements in safety and fire protection. A new breathing air compressor and cascade system was also purchased from the 2003 grant award.
The 2004 grant award will go towards a vehicle exhaust extraction system because of the damaging effects of vehicle exhaust emissions. These emissions are generated on a daily basis during start-ups for response to emergencies, during daily truck checks, and during the return to station. Because the Brazil City Fire Station is manned with full time personnel 24 hours a day seven days a week, and the garage area is attached to other public buildings, this is sure to prevent serious health problems for many city employees. After its installation, the Brazil City Department will meet national standards set in place by National Fire Protection Association.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recognizes vehicle exhaust fumes as a potential cause of cancer, and mandates that their exposure be lowered to the lowest concentration possible. Exhaust fumes have been linked to a variety of other health problems. Firefighters in Brazil are equipped with state of the art breathing apparatus for hazards such as structure fires and other emergencies, but firefighters face potentially severe toxic hazards during their daily routine truck checks in the safety of their own station. Mayor Tom Arthur and Fire Chief Tobey D. Archer believe that the firefighters are the department's most valuable asset. Protection from harmful diesel exhaust is one of their highest priorities. With the assistance of this grant program, the city can afford this system of protection for one-tenth of the total cost.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is administered by the De-partment's Office for Do-mestic Preparedness in cooperation with the De-partment's United States Fire Administration.