Township firefighters to benefit from grant
Fairmount Township's fire department is due for an upgrade.
And $56,000 in federal funds from the Department of Homeland Security will help.
Fairmount Township is one of seven Kansas fire departments selected to receive federal funds.
Jeff Theno, fire chief, said the money is earmarked for firefighter safety.
"We're going to upgrade our air packs," Theno said.
"Right now we have 30-minute packs and we're upgrading to 45-minute packs."
The air packs, worn by firefighters when fighting fires, provide fresh air for them to breathe. When the packs are empty, they can be refilled at a station in one of Fairmount's trucks.
And, if any money is left over after purchasing the new air packs, it will be used for communication equipment.
Theno, who heads the volunteer fire department, credited his assistant chief, Chuck Magaha, for obtaining the grant. Magaha works full-time as Leavenworth County's director of emergency management.
"We applied for four or five grants in the last few years, and we were fortunate enough to get one this time, so all the credit has to go to Chuck," Theno said.
As part of the 2004 grant program, congress appropriated more than $750 million in one-year grants to local fire departments.
According to a state of Kansas press release, Fairmount Township was awarded its grant in the Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety category, which includes training, wellness and fitness, firefighting equipment and modifications to fire stations and facilities. The Department of Homeland Security received more than 20,400 applications for the program.
Meanwhile, at the fire station, housed in Basehor, construction is under way to add three more bays. This will allow the department to move its 105-foot ladder truck, currently stored at the auxiliary station at County Road 2 and Metro Avenue, to the Basehor site.
While the 35 fire department workers are all volunteers, Theno said it's his opinion that in five years or so the township will likely move to establish a paid fire department.
With the new construction at the fire department, there would be room to include sleeping quarters and a kitchen if this happened, Theno said.
This year, the department has gone on 300 emergency calls. Theno said 80 percent of those were medical-related, and 20 percent were for fires.
"We're toned out any time the ambulance is called to our township," Theno said.
He's appreciative of his staff.
"I can't give enough credit to our guys," he said. "The medical is tough. Those guys are running day and night. We got toned out last night at 2 in the morning. They do a very good job, though, and we've got some very, very good-quality firefighters."