San Juan County Fire Districts Awarded Regional FEMA Grant

Posted October 1, 2019 at 9:13 am by

The four fire dis­tricts of San Juan Coun­ty have received a region­al Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA) grant to replace aging per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment for fire­fight­ers and increase com­pat­i­bil­i­ty between agen­cies, max­i­miz­ing mutu­al aid through­out our islands while reduc­ing costs to our tax payers.

FEMA award­ed $923,115 from the Assis­tance to Fire­fight­ers grant to the fire dis­tricts for Orcas, Lopez, Shaw and San Juan Islands to fund replace­ment, test­ing train­ing and main­te­nance for Self-Con­tained Breath­ing Appa­ra­tus (SCBA), crit­i­cal for fire­fight­er safe­ty and fire oper­a­tions. Much of the islands’ fire dis­tricts res­pi­ra­to­ry equip­ment is in need of increas­ing­ly fre­quent and expen­sive repairs. As the sys­tems age, replace­ment parts become hard­er to locate and some­times obsolete.

In a joint-state­ment, the Fire Chiefs of Orcas, Lopez, Shaw and San Juan Islands said, “Our islands’ com­mu­ni­ties are unique with their own iden­ti­ties and cul­tures. In an emer­gency, we are all one, sup­port­ing each oth­er. We are work­ing togeth­er to ensure the safe­ty and secu­ri­ty of all our islands’ res­i­dents. We are grate­ful to FEMA for this grant and pro­vid­ing our dis­tricts the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­tin­ue col­lab­o­ra­tion and coop­er­a­tion while sav­ing tax­pay­er dol­lars and increas­ing San Juan County’s emer­gency mutu­al aid compatibility.”

A large por­tion of the islands fire dis­tricts SCBA inven­to­ry must be retired over the next 12 months. Repair costs for the remain­ing aging units have con­tin­ued to rapid­ly increase. The dis­tricts are great­ly chal­lenged to pro­vide this crit­i­cal equip­ment. The dis­tricts would finan­cial­ly strug­gle to pro­vide replace­ment equip­ment on their own with­out deplet­ing reserve funds. The FEMA grant pro­vides a huge oppor­tu­ni­ty for our islands fire dis­tricts to main­tain emer­gency reserves. 

There are many ben­e­fits to out­fit­ting our vol­un­teer and career fire­fight­ers with new­er SCBAs. While ensur­ing breath­ing safe­ty dur­ing fires, the San Juan Islands fire dis­tricts’ fire­fight­ers will be able to oper­ate at emer­gency scenes with­out con­cern for SCBA com­pat­i­bil­i­ty. Our vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers will be prop­er­ly pro­tect­ed, result­ing in bet­ter pro­tec­tion for the pub­lic, improved life safe­ty, and reduced prop­er­ty loss.

In addi­tion to adding new, com­pat­i­ble SCBA units through the FEMA Assis­tance to Fire­fight­ers grant, the dis­tricts will cre­ate one point of train­ing and ser­vice for the breath­ing equip­ment. This will reduce redun­dan­cy for main­te­nance, safe­ty fit­ting and SCBA train­ing. Reduc­ing redun­dan­cy extends the FEMA grant mon­ey for more SCBA equip­ment and allows for faster replace­ment of out­dat­ed units.

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