WASHINGTON, D.C. – For many small fire departments in the Upper Peninsula, they don’t have the same funding as cities like Detroit. When they need things like new protective gear, equipment, even trucks, they rely on federal funds or second-hand equipment from other departments. Senator Gary Peters (D- MI) spoke with WZMQ 19 News on this issue and about how his legislation could help local departments.
“The personal protective equipment for example, what we had was donated, old, torn, tattered, met no standard state for national standards for PPE,” said Michael Defina, the assistant fire chief of Ahmeek Village Volunteer Fire Department.
Defina said some of the equipment they used to have on hand when they got an emergency call was not the latest or greatest.
“Auto extrication consisted of crow bars, hand tools, hacksaws, things of that nature,” said Defina.
For most rural or small town first responders, most of their equipment is outdated or second hand from the big cities or too expensive to replace. Federal funds like FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants has been a gamechanger. Opening millions of dollars for these departments to get equipment they need, like new cardiac monitors for Mercy EMS in Calumet Township.
“Those replaced our life pack 12s, which were about 20 years old,” said Patrick Boberg, Mercy EMS and Calumet Township Fire Department. “To the point that they could not be fixed anymore once they went down. They’re about 160-thousand dollars a piece, it’s a piece of equipment we use pretty much on every call.”
Over the years, Ahmeek Volunteer Fire Department have used those funds to replace their 1985 mechanically unsound and unsafe truck, get new protective gear and tools like the “jaws of life” to help people in a car crash.
“It’s a very expensive piece of equipment,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D- MI). “It costs 60 thousand dollars. And if you’re a big fire department it’s still a lot of money but you have a big budget but if you’re a small fire department in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it’s a pretty big price tag.”
Senator Peters said this grant funding has helped many first responders in the UP but the funding authorization expires this year. He’s introduced legislation to extend these grants for seven more years. These departments said this kind of funding gives their team the assurance they need to serve their communities.
“So this has certainly bolstered our confidence in helping the community and the surrounding communities as well,” said Defina.
Senator Peters’ legislation that would continue this funding for the next couple of years, is up for consideration on the full Senate floor.