Grants to help rural firefighters

·2 min read

Sep. 23—Two rural fire departments on the North Coast have been awarded grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replace old equipment.

The Elsie-Vinemaple fire department will receive a $619,047 grant to purchase a new pumper tender.

"This will replace a 1977 tender and a 1988 engine," Cannon Beach Fire Chief Marc Reckmann, who helped write and manage the grants, said in an email.

Mike Wammack, fire chief of Elsie-Vinemaple, said the new apparatus will help his fellow departments through their mutual aid agreements.

"This truck's not only helping us out, it's going to help Hamlet, it's available to Seaside, Cannon Beach — anything within our county," he said.

Reckmann said, "These grants are especially important to districts like Elsie that have an annual budget of about $75,000."

Hamlet Volunteer Fire Department will receive $99,619.

About $78,000 of that amount will pay for an air compressor and fill station for the self-contained breathing apparatus bottles firefighters wear on the job. Hamlet's compressor no longer functions, so their bottles, which hold air pressurized to about 4,500 pounds per square inch, must be refilled at another department.

The rest of Hamlet's grant will purchase eight sets of turnouts— helmets, coats, anti-flash hoods, gloves, boots and so on — to replace gear that is more than a decade old.

"Hamlet's always been really good about getting by with less," Hamlet Fire Chief Matt Verley said. The grant will bring their equipment up to par with that of their neighboring departments, he said.

Hamlet fire's annual budget is about $36,000, Reckmann said.

Last year, Hamlet received a $48,000 grant to replace their extrication equipment — the "jaws of life" — plus a joint grant, with Elsie-Vinemaple, of $268,000 to replace radios, Reckmann said.

The new grant comes as Hamlet's calls have increased for fires, motor vehicle crashes and medical emergencies.

Verley said his department averaged less than 80 calls per year for about 18 years. Last year, the number was about 180 calls. This year has seen about 100 calls so far, he said.

He attributes it to a rise in tourist traffic. "We're just seeing an increase in traffic on the roadway, and an increase in calls related to people passing through our district," Verley said.