Ashland Fire & Rescue Receives FEMA Grant for Firefighter Health and Safety

Ashland Fire & Rescue received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to get new breathing equipment worn during fires and for health screenings to help identify work-related diseases such as cancer.

The FEMA award totals $365,181 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant sponsored each year by the federal government. The breathing equipment, called Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus or SCBA, includes pack mounted air tanks and face pieces that keep firefighters from breathing super-heated air and smoke laden with toxic chemicals.

The air tank packs include an alarm system for trapped or fallen firefighters and connections to aid a fellow firefighter by hooking into their breathing pack to give them air should they run out. Ashland’s air packs are becoming outdated and decreasing budgets have made it difficult to purchase them without external funding.

Firefighters are at an elevated risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases due to the strenuous work and exposures to toxic smoke as happened during the Almeda Fire. FEMA funds will allow each Ashland firefighter to go through a comprehensive physical exam, blood testing, fitness tests, and imaging tests. The grant is supplying $185,000 to test all members of the department.

“We’re incredibly grateful for this funding. Keeping our people safe and healthy is the highest priority because without them we can’t help you,” said Fire Chief Ralph Sartain.

Established in 1887, Ashland Fire & Rescue provides twenty-four-hour, all-hazards response to over 4,900 calls each year in an area over 600 square miles.

City of Ashland news release
photo: Jess Mann
photo does not necessarily show the equipment mentioned