Naugatuck, Waterbury fire departments receive grant

WATERBURY — A nearly $300,000 federal grant will provide equipment and training for both the Waterbury and Naugatuck fire departments.

The allocation is part of $33.6 million in direct assistance grants the Federal Emergency Management Agency has committed to 166 fire departments nationwide. FEMA announced the grants last week.

In the city and the borough, the money will be devoted to improving the quality of the departments’ rope and confined space rescue services by replacing outdated equipment and providing combined training, it was announced at a news conference Sept. 4 at Waterbury Fire Department’s Field Street headquarters.

“As a fire chief, there’s lots of things that you want to do, but you’re fiscally challenged,” Naugatuck Fire Chief Ellen Murray said at the news conference, which was attended by numerous firefighters and local and federal officials.

“Grants like this help us to do the training that we really feel that we need but sometimes can’t get done,” she added.

The $299,556 grant is from FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. Waterbury Battalion Chief James Peplau applied for the grant. He said the region has received 28 FEMA allocations since the grant began in 2001.

Peplau said more than $11.7 million in federal money has been awarded to firefighting efforts in the region over that time, providing “mission critical equipment” such as a heavy rescue vehicle, the new Engine 4 truck, hoses and nozzles, turnout gear, thermal imagers, as well as fire-prevention equipment like a fire safety trailer, fire extinguisher trainer and smoke alarms for distribution.

This particular award, he said, will provide the Waterbury and borough departments with eight days of intensive training in rope and confined space rescue. Each department will also receive about $30,000 worth of equipment, some of which will replace 20-year-old equipment at the end of its service life, he said.

“The importance of these funds to the success of our mission to improve the safety of our firefighters and the communities they serve cannot be overstated,” Peplau said.

Fire Chief Terry Ballou said partnerships such as the one between the city and the borough are “probably the wave of the future” in firefighting.

He also noted city fire resources being devoted to providing relief from Hurricane Dorian, which is still raging in the American South.

“I just want to say that the regional effort works both ways,” he said. “What we gain from the federal government we also give back on a regional, local and federal basis.”

Under the terms of the grant, each department is responsible for a 10% match of the federal money.