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Firemen soon to reach new heights

By Staff | Aug 12, 2016

The Shepherdstown Fire Department is committed to providing excellent service to the community, and with the award of a grant for a new ladder truck, they will have another tool to do just that.

Lieutenant Daniel Henderson began the lengthy grant-writing process in November of 2015 and received word that FEMA awarded the Assistance for Firefighters Grant (AFG) in the amount of $825,000 on Aug. 5 for the purchase of a new 100-foot ladder truck to replace the 75-foot ladder truck currently in service.

The current truck has had numerous mechanical malfunctions and problems with components that were deemed detrimental to effective fire department operations and firefighter safety.

Henderson, who has been with the Shepherdstown fire department for 10 years says a longer ladder will enable them to fight fires more effectively, while being safer for the firefighters.

“We’ve run into situations-at the college especially, just because of the way it’s laid out-where it’s hard for us, with our current ladder truck to get to the roof,” said Henderson. “With a ladder truck, that’s your number one goal-to get to the roof. If we can’t (get to the roof), then we have to go up the stairs to find roof access. That makes it more dangerous for firefighters because they have to go through the fire to do their jobs.This (new truck) will be a huge benefit to us, especially with the way Shepherd is expanding and with the new building because we will be able to reach the top.”

Henderson said that the grant is highly competitive and is based on need, the area serviced, calls received and other similar criteria.

“In our department we run about 1,000 to 1,200 calls per year,” said Henderson. “Around 300 of those are fire calls, and just shy of 1,000 EMS calls.” Henderson also said that over the last five years, their call volume has considerably increased due to a higher population and increased enrollment at Shepherd University. Another factor is the service area.

“In the past four years our response in Washington County (Maryland) has increased,” said Henderson. “It’s very common for us to be over there for house fires and things. They’re starting to call us more and more. And of course, departments in the rest of county call on us for help. We all rely on each other, and the rest of the county’s call volume is increasing as well.”

The truck will have to be special ordered and custom built. The department will continue to use the current ladder truck, but will have to put it out of commission, per FEMA rules, with the arrival of the new truck, hopefully by summer of 2017.

FEMA also recently awarded another grant to the Shepherdstown Fire Department in July in the amount of $66,561. This grant was for the purchase of a vehicle exhaust system, which the department does not currently have. The system is needed for the safety and protection of the staff by extracting dangerous fumes that are emitted by apparatus in the building bay. The exhaust system is expected to be completed in November of this year.

Despite being awarded these two grants totaling approximately $1 million, the department is still required to come up with 5 percent of the award, which is just over $40,000. The Shepherdstown Fire Department does not receive funding from the county ambulance fee and relies on donations and fundraisers like the upcoming gun bash, apple butter sales and weekly bingo for support.

Henderson and the rest of the department wanted to give thanks to the many politicians who gave support to this project, including Senators Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore Capito who wrote letters of recommendation to the FEMA AFG board in support of these projects.