Firefighters get help from Homeland Security |

Firefighters get help from Homeland Security

Connie Steiert

EAGLE – For firefighters, delays in communications can waste those precious seconds.A recent $41,000 grant from Homeland Security will enable the firefighters of the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District to communicate better with each other, dispatchers and with other agencies in the region. By purchasing new radios, headsets and masks with the grant, the firefighters will be able to respond to emergencies more quickly, more efficiently and more safely, Chief Jon Asper said.The grant, part of the 2004 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, was competitive, with fire departments around the nation vying for coveted dollars. Ultimately, there will be some 8,000 awards, totaling nearly $750 million, given out to firefighters through the United States Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In a letter to Asper, congratulating Greater Eagle Fire Protection District on receiving the grant, Colorado Senator Wayne Allard wrote, “Given the national competition for the fire grants, the distinction awarded to your department by the United States Fire Administration is certainly noteworthy.” He stated in his Feb. 3: “The Greater Eagle Fire Department has set an example of excellence.”In recent years, the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District has experienced a marked upswing in the number of emergency calls, reflecting the growth of the district’s population. In 2004 alone, the district provided responded to some 901 incidents. The district helps with everything from house fires and wild fires to medical emergencies and hazardous material spills. Community service is also emphasized by Greater Eagle. Local firefighters make the time to shovel the snow off senior citizens’ walks whenever they can, Asper said. In the past 10 years, the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, which was volunteer for many years, has completed some $2.8 million in projects to update its equipment and hire paid firefighters.The paid staff, working side by side with volunteers, serves the 4,800 citizens in its roughly 196-square-mile territory. Still, the organization has needs, such as radios and better-fitting masks and radio headsets that allow better communication with departments, Asper said.The grant will also allow the district to purchase additional handheld radios for the new employees it has hired.”We have to revamp all of our radio systems,” Asper said.The Greater Eagle Fire Protection District will pay roughly $4,100 of the grant. The Greater Eagle Fire Protection District has nearly $2 million in additional projects and programs planned over the next three years, including the need to build an another fire station. The Homeland Security grant will just help the department meet one small part of that.”Like all the fire departments, we have to do a little bit this year, and a little bit next year,” explains Chief Asper.Vail, Colorado

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