The Township received notification of award from Congressman Lance and Senators Menendez and Booker of a $457,040 federal grant for air pack replacement for its three volunteer fire departments.

The funds will be used to replace 60 Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, or SCBAs, which provide fresh breathing air to those fighting fires. Fairmount, Long Valley, and Schooley's Mountain fire departments will each get 20 SCBAs. The grant also will cover spare air cylinders, as well as new masks for all 85 members. Those masks must be custom fit for each firefighter.

The federal department of Homeland Security awarded more than 1,775 fire departments nationwide over $244 million to support their role as local first responders via the fiscal year 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grant program since July 2018. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is administered by the U.S. Fire Administration, which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It assists rural, urban and suburban fire departments throughout the country. The funds are to be used towards operations effectiveness, firefighter health and safety programs, new fire apparatus, emergency medical service programs, and fire prevention and safety programs.

Former Chief Keith Heimburg applied for the grant on behalf of Washington Township. It was the fourth successful award over past years, including a similar request 15 years ago. The SCBA bottles are required to be replaced after 15 years due to regulatory requirements.

Mayor Bill Roehrich and fire commissioner Gregg Forsbrey said the township committee already is considering approximately $1.1 million in capital expenditures this year which would have put the air packs on a replacement program for the next year or two if the township had not received a grant. The township will have to contribute 5 percent of the cost for the equipment -- approximately $23,000.

The grant money also will help the township improve their Rapid Intervention Crew, or RIC. An RIC is composed of firefighters who essentially serve as a backup team on an emergency site. Their sole purpose is to rescue other firefighters or structure occupants. About a dozen volunteer firefighters in the township began training for RIC in 2002.

The Washington Township residents and firefighters will benefit from the new personal protective equipment through improvement of the volunteer fire companiesí ability to respond to fire and other emergency response needs. They will be equipped with up-to-date, NIOSH approved and NFPA-compliant SCBAs, so our firefighters can more safely respond whenever the community needs them.

The Department is grateful for the support of the Township Committee and Congressman Lance for their guidance and assistance in securing the funding for this much needed equipment.