EAST MISSOULA – The East Missoula Rural Fire Department has been fighting flames for years with defunct, second-hand gear that can be up to 26 years old. But now, thanks to a grant authorized under FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program they can finally afford some peace of mind.
The department’s gear comes as hand me down from more than five agencies within the county and some it has seen better days. Some fire-resistant turnout jackets and pants have holes and rips in important spots and the firefighter’s breathing apparatus malfunction.
A $188,000 grant will now allow the department to buy 25 new sets of protective clothing and 18 new breathing tanks. Fire chief Justin Shaffer says that the grant alleviates the extra stress suffered by the state of their equipment.
“When you look at our gear, I mean this is the stuff that our guys are actually using, today! And you have a jacket that’s over 20 years old, you’ve got other jackets that are 15. We have turn-outs that are mismatched with holes, boots that are falling apart, helmets that don’t match,” Shaffer pointed out.
“So when we go to a structure fire scene…it’s almost hard to determine who’s who because we don’t even match as a group. So the safety of our firefighters is important and this grant is going to basically take care of that for us,” he added.
The East Missoula Rural Fire Department also carries carbon monoxide alarms that they want to give out. If you need an alarm, just stop by their station at 314 Montana Avenue or call (406) 549-5078 for more information.
-Donal Lakatua reporting for MTN News