Federal award funds new self-contained breathing apparatuses for firefighters
Late last week, Congressman Brian Higgins announced the City of Niagara Falls Fire Department was awarded a federal fire award. Funded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) Grant program, the grant totals $314,718.
“The work of a firefighter is tough, dangerous and selfless,” Higgins said. “This federal grant fills a great need to ensure Niagara Falls firefighters are protected and have the tools necessary to serve the city’s residents, businesses and visitors.”
City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said, “Again, we are grateful to Congressman Higgins for his advocacy and assistance for the City of Niagara Falls. Our Niagara Falls Fire Department have remarkable responsibilities as reflected in their recent efforts to rescue a fallen hiker along the river. This grant, awarded through the efforts of Congressman Higgins, helps the city keep our firefighters in the most up-to-date equipment to ensure their safety.”
The City of Niagara Falls will use the grant funding to purchase 36 new self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) for firefighters, as well as a filling station for the devices. The Niagara Falls Fire Department’s existing airpacks were 20 years old and scheduled to expire under existing safety standards this year. The department’s air-filling station was more than 25 years old and recently broke, requiring Niagara Falls firefighters to take their tanks to a North Tonawanda fire station for filling.
Fire Chief Joe Pedulla said, “This grant could not have come at a better time. We have had to use parts from outdated discarded airpacks to keep ours operational. Each time our firefighters put these airpacks on they risk entering a very dangerous situation and deserve the best equipment we can provide.”
Higgins’ team said, “SCBAs are critical devices for firefighters because they provide breathable air in environments with oxygen deficiencies, smoke or dangerous gases, and other hazardous airborne contaminants.”
Niagara Falls Fire Officers Local 3359 President Jason Cafarella said, "There may be no other article of firefighter protective equipment more essential than our breathing apparatus. Our current SCBAs are not only obsolete, but they expire in a matter of days. On behalf of our membership, and the residents of our city, I want to thank Congressman Higgins for identifying this real and immediate need for this vital equipment. His leadership and advocacy were crucial to the fire department obtaining this grant."
The AFG program awards grants directly to fire departments, nonaffiliated EMS organizations, and State Fire Training Academies (SFTAs) to enhance public safety and health protections, as well as protections for first responders. It is one of three DHS/FEMA programs that focus on public and firefighter safety with respect to fire and related hazards.
Niagara Falls Firefighters Local 714 President Noah Masur added, "This is an example of the good things our federal government can do to provide frontline workers at the local level with the tools necessary to best serve our community. With this grant, we can quickly replace our obsolete SCBAs and hit the ground running with modern equipment."
In 2020, Congress approved $318.5 million for the AFG program to help first-responder organizations improve fire-response capabilities and emergencies of all types. Since 2001, the program has awarded $7.7 billion in grants that provide critical resources to equip and train emergency personnel, enhance operational efficiencies, foster interoperability, and support community resilience.
To learn more about Assistance to Firefighters Grant awards, guidance and tools, visit https://www.fema.gov/vi/grants/preparedness/firefighters/assistance-grants.