Worthington, MA – A number of rural fire departments in Massachusetts are receiving small monetary grants. Officials say the money will be a big help in protecting life and property. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The Massachusetts agency that is responsible for almost one half million acres of forests and park lands has awarded grants totaling 80 thousand dollars to 51 volunteer fire departments across the state to help fight forest fires.
Edward Lambert, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation was at the fire department headquarters in Worthington Monday to personally award grants to representatives from 8 fire departments in the Hilltowns and Berkshires.
Lambert said the state could not be protected without the willingness of volunteers to risk their lives to fight forest fires and the grants will help ensure the volunteer firefighters don't go out without the tools they need.
The money for the grants comes from the U.S. Forest Service. The program has been around for decades and small town fire departments in Massachusetts have benefited from it, according to Mike Tirrell, who is the fire chief in Windsor, and was the Massachusetts State Fire Warden for seven years..
Tirrell says the Windsor fire department is using this year's grant , which totals 2 thousand dollars, to replace a portable pump on one of its fire trucks.
Before the grants became available several years ago, many volunteer firefighters were dangerously ill equipped to go deep into the woods to battle a wildfire, according to Chief Susan Labrie of the Goshen fire department.
Labrie said the Goshen fire department has also used the grants in the past to purchase chemicals made specifically to suppress wood fires. This year's grant is being used to upgrade the dry hydrant system, which uses water drafted from ponds and streams to fight fires.
The individual grants range from 15 hundred up to 2 thousand dollars. It's a small amount of money acknowledges State Representative Stephen Kulik of Worthington, who is vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. But, Kulik says given tight budgets every dollar helps.
The grants announced Monday went to fire departments in Worthington, South Hadley, Granby, Lanesboro, Goshen, Chester, Windsor and Otis.