Firefighters in Middletown's South Fire District will be receiving advanced training in the coming months on Confined Space Rescues and Vehicle and Machinery Rescues thanks to a $174,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Receipt of the Grant was announced today by the Chairman of the South District Fire Commission, David P. Gallitto and U. S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. Paperwork for the grant was accepted this morning by Acting Fire Chief Steven Krol.
Chairman Gallitto stated that the grant money will fund additional training for South District firefighters so they can be certified as Confined Space and Vehicle and Machinery Rescue Technicians. Acting Chief Krol said "this will build upon the Core Level training in these areas that South District firefighters received last year". Federal grant money will cover 95% of the training costs. The District will pick up the remaining 5% according to Krol.
Gallitto said "the grant money is especially welcome because the training is vitally necessary, but given the current economic climate, that amount of money could not be included in next year's budget without an increase in district taxes". He pointed out that the 4.6 million dollar South Fire District Budget to be voted on by District voters on April 30th, does not include any increase in the tax rate. "To keep the tax rate as its current, 3.648 mils", Gallitto said, "required significant belt tightening, just to maintain our current level of fire and emergency medical response".
Acting Fire Chief, Krol said "it is unusual for a department to receive a training grant of this amount". He stated that South District became eligible for the funding "because firefighters already have received the Core Level training, because the department has the equipment necessary to carry out the rescues and because South District makes its members and equipment available for mutual aid". He said the "mutual aid is a key component of the FEMA grant". During the past year, South Fire District has used grant money to purchase new Hurst Rescue Tools for each of its three front line apparatus and an additional $3000 worth of rescue equipment was purchased with left over funds from a prior grant.
Krol and Gallitto both pointed out that because there are a number of confined space and heavy machinery hazards within the South Fire District, including but not limited to Pratt and Whitney, and the two electric power plants the advanced training is important for the safety of the firefighters and the persons they are called upon to rescue. Krol added that the training also would apply to the most serious motor vehicle accidents and to farm machinery accidents with severe entrapment. Approximately 7 of the just over 8 miles of heavily travelled Route 9 through Middletown lie within the South Fire District and there still is active farming in parts of the South Fire District which covers more than half of the City of Middletown 42 square miles.
The grant money, according to Krol will pay for overtime for firefighters attending the training and for the instructors from the Connecticut Fire Academy who will conduct the classes. Krol said he expects the training to take place at the South District firehouse.