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Hurricane VFD obtains $800 WVAW grant for supplies

By Caity Coyne, Staff Writer
Hurricane Volunteer Fire Department Chief Rob Savage and his department are recipients of an $800 grant for equipment purchases, given by West Virginia American Water.
Coats for Hurricane volunteer firefighters hang in the department’s station.

For Hurricane volunteer firefighters, better equipment can mean quicker response times in emergencies and better service for people relying on them.

“The easier our job is the easier and safer it is for us to get to people and the community, and the more opportunity we have to help people when they need it,” said Tiffany Reed, who is in charge of recruitment and retention for the Hurricane Volunteer Fire Department.

The 35 members of the Hurricane VFD serve approximately 13,000 people over about 100 square miles. It’s a hard job, Reed said, but a recent grant from West Virginia American Water may ease some of the department’s pressure.

Hurricane VFD was one of 12 fire departments in the state to be awarded a grant through WVAW to help purchase new equipment that could potentially save lives. With its $800 grant, Hurricane VFD plans on purchasing a cordless drill with rechargeable batteries, a windshield cutter and a cordless saw.

Generally, Reed said, the department tends to keep their equipment as up-to-date as possible, and when they see something new that could improve their services, they try to obtain that.

This new equipment will cut down the department’s response time and make extractions and other jobs easier and safer for the volunteers. The equipment is especially necessary considering the vast service area Hurricane VFD undertakes.

“Even though there’s a city there, they [Hurricane VFD volunteers] serve a big, rural area, as well,” said Laura Martin, external affairs manager for WVAW. “Many departments serving areas like that need special equipment we may not think about.”

Martin referred to an accident or emergency not on a main road, where there may not be electrical resources available for the firefighters to use to power up their equipment — like drills and saws. Reed said that each fire truck has a generator that can power these tools, but sometimes help is needed somewhere that is inaccessible to something as big as a firetruck. With the cordless drill and saw, Hurricane VFD won’t be hindered by challenges like this, and Reed said she expects response time and extraction time — where seconds can sometimes be life or death — to shrink.

“That’s the main reason we’re here — a faster response time,” said Reed, noting the only other fire department resource in the area is the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

In total, 25 fire departments from across the state applied for grants through WVAW.

The process is fairly simple, Martin said. Departments that applied were asked to send in a letter describing the needs of the community they serve and an explanation for the money they were requesting.

The letters and requests are then considered by a committee of WVAW employees, and $10,000 reserved for this grant program is disbursed as they see fit.

“We definitely hear that funding is becoming more and more scarce,” Martin said. “We certainly wish we could fund all these requests fully, there isn’t one that doesn’t deserve it.”

All 25 of the applicants for this year’s requested funding for equipment for the departments, which Martin said is fairly normal.

“All of them were asking for simple, basic things,” Martin said. “There’s never really anything fancy, just day-to-day necessities [and equipment].”

This grant program began in 2014, and is modeled after a very similar program in Pennsylvania. Martin said the point of it is to help ensure fire departments in competitive service areas are receiving necessary funds for equipment, training and materials.

Water companies — like WVAW — and fire departments share an intertwined history, which Martin said explains why this grant program is so important to both.

Public water was originally started for fire services, but fire hydrants — 9,000 of which in the Mountain State belong to WVAW — are operated by water companies.

“We’ve always had a tie with fire protection, a big tie,” Martin said. “A part of that history is always on our mind, we’re always considering it. This grant program is kind of an extension of that.”


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