Fire departments in Benewah County were just awarded their largest grant yet.

County fire departments were awarded a $666,000 grant that will not only help taxpayers save money, but also helped to purchase equipment that will help save lives.

Lt. Josh Masterson spearheaded the effort to apply for the grant to purchase equipment for all five fire departments in the county. The new equipment will bring all of departments up to state and federal standards.

“We were awarded the grant by FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters grant,” Lt. Masterson said. “We’ve been very fortunate as a county for our grants in the past. Since 2009 this is our third award we have been given.”

The new equipment and training is universal, which St. Maries Fire Chief Larry Naccarato said would make their jobs easier.

“It’s all the same equipment across all of the fire stations. So If you go somewhere and don’t have something it will be on one of the trucks and you can grab it and already know how to use it,” Chief Naccarato said. “You can be confidant on what you are using. There are five departments here, all of us are in the same need for equipment. Now is a great time to get everyone on board with the same gear and same training”

The county fire stations were able to purchase a total of 88 air packs, 109 masks, 176 high pressure bottles and two complete compressor fill stations. Prior to the grant, the county only had fill stations that could work with low pressure bottles.

Lt. Masterson said that they were supplied 21 extra masks to make sure that every firefighter has a mask that fits to their face.

“FEMA standard is every firefighter must have a mask that fits them so there isn’t a risk of having a bad seal,” Lt. Masterson said.

Lt. Masterson said that having the proper SCBA face masks allows the department to continue to be able to go inside homes to helped reduce damage or to save people or pets trapped in a burning building.

“You cant effectively be a firefighter anymore without these SCBA’s,” Lt. Masterson said. “The toxic fumes are too harsh and without them we turn into sprinkler systems outside your house. Without SCBA’s there is no chance to go inside for rescues. We would have to be just outside firefighters and that’s not how we do business.”

In order to acquire the grant, the five fire departments in the county had to match five percent of the funds, which Chief Naccarato said came to $31,000.

He said that no outside sources helped with raising the funds and that compared to what the gear would have cost, taxpayers got a great deal on all of their new life-saving equipment.

“We saved a massive amount of money. None of us like to pay taxes, the way I see it my tax dollars go federal and I never see them again or I may see them go towards a project,” Chief Naccarato said. “We are getting some of this money back and if we wouldn’t have applied for the grant then we would have never gotten it back. It benefits everyone in the county.”

Lt. Masterson said that raising the amount of money it would have taken to buy the amount of equipment they needed would have been close to impossible.

“When we were submitting the numbers, dollar figures for all this gear is equal to two years of tax levy rates of all five departments,” Lt. Masterson said. “It would take two years to pay for all the equipment we got. It would have been basically impossible to accomplish without the firefighter’s grant.”

Fire departments in the county are also seeking more volunteers, and Chief Naccarato said that anyone interested should come talk to him if they have any questions.

For more information call the St. Maries Fire Department at 208-245-5253.

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