A western Massachusetts fire department is receiving a big federal grant to upgrade their equipment.
The more than $130,000 will make a huge difference at the East Longmeadow Fire Department.
Right now, the department is using self-contained breathing apparatuses that are more than 12 years old.
However, thanks to a federal grant, they will be able to upgrade this life-saving equipment.
"Without this, they wouldn't be able to do their job," said Michael Minahan with the East Longmeadow Fire Department.
It's a vital piece of equipment: a firefighter's self-contained breathing apparatus.
"We have had to evacuate buildings before. Whenever we do run low on air, we have to start thinking about our exit out of the building or escape in that scenario. Your mind is going at 100 miles an hour, it's time to start thinking, 'Okay, I have this much air. I used this much to get in, I'm going to need probably close to it to get out,'" Minahan explained.
The one's the department has now are more than a decade old, but as Western Mass News found, an award from FEMA's Assistance to Firefighter grant program is helping the department go out with the old and in with the new.
"It's old, it's 12 years old basically, but part of the standard is you have to keep it maintained. We send these out all the time on a regular basis. The heads-up display is changing a little bit, the pack itself is pretty heavy. The profile on the pack is changing. It's going to be a little narrower, so it'll help a firefighter in a tighter situation if need be," said East Longmeadow Fire Chief Paul Morrissette.
Rep. Richard Neal added, "When you have, in New England, so many old buildings that are vacant, with oil in the floor, once the fire gets going, it's really hard to put it out."
The air packs also have long-term health benefits.
"This air pack can be fully decontaminated. We can take the air pack apart and wash every little piece on it now, so when they just go to the nuisance calls and they got to put their pack on anyways, they're not putting dirty contaminated packs on. So long-term, not only does it protect them from the short-term exposure, but it protects them from the long-term exposure," Morrissette explained.
Morrissette said that each apparatus costs about $6,500.
The grant will allow them to purchase 20 new pieces to outfit all of their trucks.
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