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Twinsburg -- The stops and starts of fire department vehicles in an enclosed space can lead to health problems for firefighters and deterioration in equipment.
In an effort to extend the lives of both, the Twinsburg Fire Department will put a $71,865 grant from the feds toward a ventilation system that purges the air of virtually all vehicle exhaust.
"This is for the health and wellness of our employees," said Twinsburg Fire Chief Tim Morgan. "A high percentage of firefighters are diagnosed with cancer in their careers. This will make for a better work environment. The [vehicle] exhaust also has degrading effects on our turnout gear -- the coats and pants worn by firefighters."
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced the Twinsburg grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, through the Assistance to Firefighters Grants program, in late August.
"Firefighters and first responders keep our communities safe in times of crisis," Brown said. "With so many communities facing budget shortfalls, these funds will ensure that Twinsburg's firefighters have the resources they need to protect families and homes from fire hazards."
The AFG program is geared toward helping firefighters and other first responders protect the public and themselves.
Projects funded though the operations and safety category, from where Twinsburg's grant will be issued, include training, facility upgrades and modifications, and supplies such as protective equipment.
For the $80,000 ventilation system to be installed in Fire Station No. 1 at Twinsburg Government Center (Fire Station No. 2 was too new to fall within the grant guidelines), the city will pay about 10 percent or $7,000, with the federal grant taking care of the rest.
With a $3.6 million budget, 32 full-time and a dozen part-time firefighters, the city's fire department may not be budget-strapped -- but it did receive high marks for the grant by declaring that it would be applied toward health and wellness.
"It's hard to compete against, say, a Canton Fire Department in terms of need," Morgan said. "But for health and wellness of our employees, it got extra points."
Morgan said it could take several months before the city has the money in-hand. The project will need to go out for bid, and the installation itself will take a couple weeks.
"It can be frustrating, as the grant money is tax money that goes to Washington and we have to beg a little bit to get it back," Morgan said. "But the new system will be very functional in diverting the exhaust and getting it off our equipment and employees."