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Pennington County fire departments receive FEMA Grants

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced an Assistance to Firefighter Grant totaling $915,458.00 has been awarded to seventeen (17) volunteer fire departments in Pennington County for badly needed updates to communications hardware. Additionally, a $19,737.14 grant has been awarded to the Wall Volunteer Fire Department for an updated breathing air grade compressor.

The Rockerville Volunteer Fire Department, under the guidance of Chief Gail Schmidt, submitted a proposal to FEMA in October of 2018 and recently received notification of the countywide communication award.

“Radio technology has dramatically changed over the years due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rulings. In addition, the State of South Dakota communications system is changing soon,” Schmidt said. “Our volunteer fire departments currently have functional radios, however many of those radios will soon be non-compliant with the State of South Dakota communications switch to a P25 trunked system by July of 2020. In addition, 90% of the current portable and mobile radios in use have been defined as obsolete by the manufacturer and no longer receive support after 2018.”

Rockerville VFD, with the assistance of sixteen (16) fire departments, Pennington County Fire Administration, Pennington County Radio Shop, Pennington County ESCC/9-1-1 Dispatch, and the Great Plains Interagency Dispatch Center, submitted the proposal to FEMA to assist with replacing aging radios and pagers currently in use.

“At only 10% the overall cost to each agency, this grant award is a huge benefit to the many fire agencies in Pennington County. It will allow them to upgrade pagers and radios and be prepared for the upcoming South Dakota State Radio switch,” stated Jerome Harvey, Pennington County Fire Administrator.

Volunteer Fire Departments do not have large budgets to purchase a cache of new radios and pagers to replace their existing communication equipment. However, this grant allows all agencies to make the necessary communications upgrades with their existing budgets.

“Fire equipment is expensive, and communication equipment is no different”, stated Harvey. “This grant will help with the actual hardware volunteer firefighter’s use in the field to communicate, including the handheld radio and radios mounted in fire engines.

Solid, reliable communication is a necessary part of responding safely and efficiently to any incident, working together as a cohesive multi-agency group, and taking care of our communities.

The Wall Volunteer Fire Department, under the guidance of Chief Jim Kitterman, submitted a proposal to the FEMA for an updated breathing air grade compressor. The compressor is used to fill air bottles firefighters carry on their backs, allowing them to enter atmospheres immediately dangerous to life and health.

“The Current Compressor is worn out and no longer working,” stated Kitterman. “The addition of an updated compressor directly supports the operations of the Wasta, Wall and Quinn Volunteer Fire Departments, as well as supporting fire departments in western Haakon and Jackson County, and any dive team operations.”

“Chief Kitterman showed foresight when he applied for funds to update the compressor, giving firefighters the option of filling breathing apparatus bottles at the Wall Fire Station,” stated Harvey. “The logistical benefit to support ongoing emergency operations as well as training speaks for itself.”

Pennington County Volunteer Fire Departments express their appreciation and sincere thanks to the entire South Dakota Congressional Delegation: Senator John Thune, Senator Mike Rounds, and Representative Dusty Johnson, for their continued support of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program that provides needed funding to many Volunteer Fire Departments in South Dakota, and throughout the country.

Volunteer fire departments that will benefit from the radio grant:

Battle Creek Fire District

Black Hawk VFD

Box Elder VFD

Doty VFD

Hill City VFD

Interior VFD

Johnson Siding VFD

New Underwood Fire Protection District

North Haines VFD

Quinn VFD

Rochford VFD

Rockerville VFD

Scenic VFD

Silver City VFD

Wall VFD

Wasta VFD

Whispering Pines VFD

Volunteer fire departments that will benefit from the Breathing Air Compressor:

Quinn VFD

Wall VFD

Wasta VFD

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Stu Whitney / South Dakota News Watch


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