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Fire district receives FEMA grant

Chief Marv Koorn, left, and firefighters from the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue District, accept a grant check for $257,212 from Dr. Dennis Hunsinger,  Deputy Administrator of the Region X office of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.   - Submitted photo
Chief Marv Koorn, left, and firefighters from the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue District, accept a grant check for $257,212 from Dr. Dennis Hunsinger, Deputy Administrator of the Region X office of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
— image credit: Submitted photo

At times, 2008 has been a frustrating year for the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue.

Voters twice turned down the fire district’s levy lift proposals requested to fund equipment replacement and station improvements, leaving fire officials in a quandary trying to determine the best method of belt tightening in order to maintain services.

However, Christmas came early for the beleagered firefighters and the district finally got a break.

Thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency the department has received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant check in the amount of $257,212 to enhance operations and firefighter safety.

The funding is administered by FEMA and is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program.

Receiving the grant money is a boon to the department that has been trying to figure out how to replace its aging Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, most of which are 12 years old.

“This type of equipment has a lifespan of 15 years and is something that we cannot repair or upgrade,” Fire Chief Marv Koorn said.

The breathing devices are necessary equipment that firefighters cannot do without when entering structures to extinguish blazes.

“This grant provides for 45 SCBA units,” Koorn said. “The project incorporates extra air bottles, voice amplifier masks and high pressure cascade units for refilling the bottles. This will greatly enhance our effectiveness in battling fires and saving lives, while providing extra protection for our firefighters.”

On Friday, Dec. 19, Dr. Dennis Hunsinger, deputy administrator of Region X, DHS-FEMA, presented the check to officials from the fire district in a ceremony at the department’s headquarters on Heller Road.

To put this achievement in perspective, a total of nearly $18 million in grants were awarded to approximately 200 local fire departments around the nation. That averaged out to around $90,000 per department.

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