WASHINGTON – Less than two years after the West Orange Fire Department rescued a 56-year-old contractor who was trapped waist-deep in a trench by a landslide for three hours, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) today announced the department will receive federal funding to obtain equipment that will aid in future trench rescues and confined space incidents. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded a new federal FIRE Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) grant to the West Orange Fire Department in the amount of $47,843, Pascrell said.
“The West Orange first responders rose to the challenge that day in June 2008 to rescue a man trapped by a landslide,” said Pascrell, who introduced the Firefighter Investment Response Enhancement (FIRE) Act in March 1999. “I am very proud of this department and proud that the federal government is providing the resources that will allow West Orange firefighters to continue their excellent responsiveness in trench rescues.”
Fire Chief Peter Smeraldo, Jr. said the grant dollars obtaining the trench rescue equipment will compliment the training the 88 firefighters of the department have received since the June 22, 2008 incident.
“Anytime someone starts digging, the soil becomes unstable and there’s a potential for collapse,” said Smeraldo, who oversees a department of 88 career firefighters. “What the grant ensures is that our personnel who have received all of the training will get the equipment that compliments their skills. Our people work really hard. These funds will help ensure that they’ll be ready for anything.”
On June 22, 2008, a private contractor working in a backyard of Old Indian Road was at the bottom of a 10-foot deep trench when a sudden storm hit. Mud quickly slid down and trapped the man waist-deep at the bottom of the trench. West Orange rescue personnel were aided by departments in Cedar Grove, West Caldwell, Montclair and Roseland. Without more advanced trench rescue equipment the fire departments were forced to rely upon the resources they had at their disposal at the time. After shoring up the sides of the trench with plywood, 50 rescue workers used hand shovels to dig the man out of the mud.
The greatest portion of the grant dollars will be used to purchase a strut shore trench kit. A mobile air cart and respirators to be used in confined space rescues will also be purchased.
This is fifth FIRE grant West Orange has been awarded. Since the program began in 2002, the West Orange Fire Department has received a total of $899,126 in federal FIRE grant funds.
FIRE grants are awarded directly to local fire departments, which are best able to identify their greatest needs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers the AFG program, which makes direct grants to fire departments to purchase equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, and other fire fighting and fire prevention activities. It also funds Fire Prevention and Safety Grants which are used for fire awareness and prevention activities, as well as fire safety related research.
Pascrell’s AFG program started with a $100 million appropriation in fiscal year 2001 and in fiscal year 2009 the program was appropriated a total of $565 million. Since 2001, the AFG has provided approximately $4 billion in grants to first-responder organizations to obtain much-needed emergency response equipment, personal protective equipment, firefighting and emergency vehicles, and training. With broad bipartisan support, the U.S. House of Representatives reauthorized Rep. Pascrell’s original AFG program with $1 billion from 2010 to 2014.