STOW -- City firefighters will be able to breathe a little easier with the upcoming purchase of new equipment, thanks to federal funding.

A June 6 press release from the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced that the city has been awarded a $231,655 Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters program grant.

"Ohio firefighters and first-responders work every day to protect our families," said Brown. "We must support our first-responder organizations so that communities like Stark and Summit County have the resources to shield families and homes from fire hazards."

Fire Chief Mark Stone told the Stow Sentry June 6 that the funds will be used to pay for new self-contained breathing apparatus equipment.

"The current SCBAs are older and need to be replaced to avoid increasing maintenance costs and bring us current with the new National Fire Protection Association standards," said Stone. "The air bottles that are used have a 15-year life and must be destroyed when they reach that age per the NFPA standard which covers SCBAs. We had a number of air bottles which we took out of service last year and began the process of replacing them as they age out."

Stone said the department has 51 SCBA air packs and the grant is enough to replace 40 of them, as well as purchase 51 masks and replace some air bottles.

"Each firefighter is issued a personal mask to avoid cross contamination which can occur when members share these devices," said Stone.

In 2015, the city applied for a FEMA grant that would have paid for 90 percent of the estimated $370,000 cost of a mass replacement of breathing equipment, including 50 self-contained breathing apparatus units; 100 45-minute air bottles; five 60-minute air bottles; 50 air masks; 40 voice amplifiers; and five rapid intervention packs, with masks and regulators.

However, after the city did not receive the grant, City Council approved a $25,000 appropriation in November 2016 to replace 27 air bottles that had reached the end of their life and were no longer safe to use.

Stone said that overall, however, the fire department has been very successful in attaining grants.

"We are fortunate to have received this grant which was written and applied for by Lt. Jeff Cochran who has been able to secure well over $1 million in grant funds since 2011," said Stone. "The FEMA grant, provided through the Department of Homeland Security, is essential in assisting numerous fire departments across the country who would otherwise have inferior equipment or understaffing due to lack of funding. The grant is helping our department by allowing us to have the latest SCBA technology which will make firefighting safer for our personnel."


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