TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Fire Department has been the recipient of several grants recently, each of which is designed to enhance safety through firefighter training and upgrade equipment. The department has been active in its pursuit of FEMA grants which are described as a way to “fund critically needed resources to equip and train emergency personnel, enhance efficiencies and support community resilience.”
In Tewksbury’s case, FEMA has awarded the department $47,585.45 and $43,551.82 in 2018 and 2019 for enrollment in Fire Officer classes. According to Chief Mike Hazel, 20 officers enrolled in Fire Officer training and an additional grouping will participate in Fire Instructor classes.
There is a lag in receiving some trainings due to COVID-19 and the department was granted an extension. As a condition of the grant, the town is expected to contribute 10 percent of the federal award toward the trainings.
The FEMA Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters grant has been operating since 2001 and provides assistance for fire departments and emergency personnel with resources for protective gear, training, emergency vehicles and other resources required to keep the public and personnel safe from fire and other related hazards, according to the FEMA website.
FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is part of the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s mission is to help people before, during and after disasters.
Hazel explained the first training was through a federal Fire Act grant to provide Fire Instructor 1 training to members of the department seeking Fire Officer 1 certification. The course was taught by a third-party trainer, Bob Colameta of the Public Safety Education Network.
The Fire Instructor 1 course will be taught this winter by the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy at the new Northern Middlesex Regional Emergency Communications Center on Whipple Road, a bonus as officers will not have to travel out of town for the training. Hazel recognized Firefighter/EMT Derek Welch for assistance in writing and administering the grants.
A CARES Act grant for $50,000 was also applied for through the state, explained Hazel. The grant is to staff a second primary ambulance during peak operational times to assist in COVID-19 responses and transports. That ambulance will be staffed at the South Fire Station by existing EMTs.
Hazel said, “We generally have staffed that ambulance on our day shifts, Monday through Friday as funding permits. We will begin that coverage in the fall or winter as the cold and flu season begins.”
Hazel also stated the state legislative delegation assisted in securing those funds and “we are appreciative of their collective efforts.”
Hazel said the department is awaiting a response on a third supplemental Fire Act grant to reimburse the Department for personal protective expenses related to COVID-19 this past spring.
For information about the Tewksbury Fire Department, visit their website at https://www.tewksbury-ma.gov/fire-department or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.