By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
A fire department is only as effective as the knowledge and training it has gathered. The United States government recognized that fact with the 2009 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program under the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Liberal Fire Chief Kelly Kirk was informed by U.S. Representative Jerry Moran, that the Liberal Fire Department has been selected as one of four current recipients of the grant with an award of $32,940 to be utilized for training purposes.
“We got the call actually from Moran’s office (Thursday) morning, that is who called us,” Kirk said. “Skeety (Poulton) wrote the grant back in April. It was the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and we have had multiple, consecutive awards with it – we have bought quite a bit with it.”
The 90/10 split grant, Kirk said, will fund specialized training for the LFD.
“This year, what we applied for was training,” he said. “I think it’s roughly, the total price of our project, is about $36,600 and that will break down to a 90/10 split of $32,940 and $3,660 from us.
“We have got all of our people trained in the basic firefighting certifications,” he explained. “Our next step is technical rescue, because we are also equipped to do a lot of that. We are going to concentrate this year on confined-space rescue techniques.”
The training will most likely consist of three classes, Kirk said.
“We will teach them basic confined space entry and rescue and that will break into like atmospheric monitoring, different dangers working in confined space where there might be oxygen deficient atmospheres or flammable atmospheres,” he said. “They will start to teach them some different harness and different rope systems that you can use. Sometimes if you are in a confined space, you might be using ropes to pull someone laterally across the ground or you could be working in something like a grain elevator incident, you might be working vertically with high angle. So, there are three steps on the confined space. There will be a basic class and two advanced classes. We are also going to get into trench rescue, dirt collapse rescue and rope rescue with low angle and high angle. Basically, the grant concentrates on training.”
Kirk explained it is much more effective for professionals to train the entire department rather than send a specific firefighter away for training.
“Those are really specialized classes that we can’t so much do,” he said. “Even if we were to send one person away to a training, they are not experts in the field to come back and train everyone. So, with this grant we are able to bring experts and their props into Liberal and then train our entire department together as a team.”
Kirk was very excited to hear the news the grant had been awarded to the LFD. He was appreciative of firefighters across the nation that saw Liberal’s need for advanced training.
“You apply for the grant and then you just sit and wait,” he said. “It goes through computer scoring. Once you make it past that, it goes to peer review – other firefighters review your application and they grade it. Depending on how high you score, they start distributing money. They pay out the highest grants first, so they know how far down they can actually go. They do it in rounds, we will probably be in the second or third round.
“When you get your grant that early, what that indicates is that your peers recognized your need,” he explained. “It is funded on need, essentially. That means other firefighters from across this nation looked at our grant application and said, ‘Yes, there is a need here and it is urgent and we need to fund this early.’”
The grant comes with a one-year performance period, which is a stipulation Kirk has no problem obliging.
“We have from the official award date, which I think will be (today), and we accept the grant, there is a one-year performance period,” he said. “So, we have a year to do it. Essentially you pay the invoices as they come. Federal money is encumbered so as you get an invoice in hand you can request the federal funds. The money is generally transferred to us within a week.”
Kirk said with a $7,500 training budget, the LFD can meet its $3,600 responsibility and come out way ahead.
“It’s a pretty sweet deal,” Kirk concluded.
A release from U.S. Senator Pat Roberts in Washington D.C. announced the grant award Thursday.
“Over $102,300 in four grants were awarded to Kansas firefighters to improve homeland security,” the release noted. “I am pleased to announce these funds, which are vital to improve firefighting efforts and first responder needs in rural Kansas. It’s imperative to support our local fire departments.”
Hesston Fire Department, Wellington Fire and EMS Department and Marshall County Rural Fire District No. 9 in Frankfort were among the four departments currently receiving the grant along with the LFD.