Herald Fire Protection District (HFPD) officials are all smiles right now, after learning the district has been approved for $428,571 in federal funding from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant’s purpose is to protect the health and safety of the public and firefighting personnel against fire and fire-related hazards.

HFPD officials had asked for funds to replace its oldest apparatus in its fleet, an aged water tender.

Purchased used in 2003, the 1974 dilapidated apparatus has countless issues, including, a 3” play in the steering wheel; exhaust gasses leaking into the cab; speedometer, odometer, defroster, fuel gauge, dash lights, and windshield wipers are not operating (a records check concerning the odometer reading showed the same mileage of 71,989 since 2010), among many other issues just with the vehicle itself. The pump and tank portion have issues, as well, including faulty gauges.

HFPD district’s 90+ square mile coverage area is mostly rural open land – functional water tenders are crucial.

“Congratulations on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security,” the award letter to the district read. “Your application submitted for the Fiscal Year 2019 Assistance to Firefighter Grant funding opportunity has been approved … After careful consideration, FEMA has determined that the recipient’s projects submitted as a part of the recipient’s application detailed in the project narrative as well as the request details section of the application, including budget information, was consistent with the Assistance to Firefighter Grant program’s purpose and worthy of award.”

As a condition for the grant, the district will be required to contribute non-federal dollars equal to or greater than 5% of the federal funds awarded. That 5% equals $21,428, giving the district $450,000 to spend on equipment. These funds will allow the district to purchase a brand new top-of-the-line water tender. It is a rare opportunity for small districts such as HFPD to purchase brand new apparatus, especially an apparatus that doesn’t come with monthly payments.

Board Chair Lindsey Liebig said that, although the $21,000 wasn’t in the budget for such a purchase, the district has been reimbursed for sending two apparatuses to assist with fires around the state. That reimbursement has already reached $50,000, more than enough to cover the required match for the FEMA grant.

“We are going to use the money we’ve earned from sending apparatuses out on strike teams to pay for that, so it won’t impact our budget at all,” Liebig said.

District officials are looking to purchase a tanker/tender that has a 3,500-gallon tank capacity with a pump capable of pumping 1,250 gallons per minute.

Unfortunately, unlike walking into a showroom, purchasing a new car and immediately driving off the lot, Liebig said it would take around six months before the district will have its new vehicle. But it will be worth the wait.

“We are very excited to receive this grant opportunity, and this fulfills a major goal of our district,” Liebig said. “We look forward to unveiling this new water tender to our community as soon as we receive it.”