With two fire grants awarded to the Ovid Fire Department last year inexplicably locked by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged DHS to immediately release these muchneeded funds to support the fire department's acquisition of a ladder truck and uptodate protective gear. In 2007, the Ovid Fire Department successfully applied for two grants under DHS' Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, to help them upgrade a vehicle fleet that dates back to 1950 and purchase critical new equipment to ensure their volunteer firefighters could adequately protect Seneca County. After being notified of their success in securing the grants, the department placed orders for a portion of the equipment
. Soon after, however, the department received word that the two grants had been locked pending further review.
Today, Schumer, in a personal letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, demanded DHS release the previously awarded grants to the Ovid Fire Department, stating that the department's antiquated vehicles and outofdate equipment are unobjectionable reasons why this grant money is essential to the continued protection of Seneca County residents
"The brave men and women at the Ovid Fire Department rush to protect their residents on a truck that was built in 1950 with insufficient gear, air packs, and radios," said Schumer. "I can't think of a more crystal clear example of the kind of local fire department the Assistance to Firefighters Program should be doing everything they can to support. It was wrong and unfair to award this muchneeded money and then whisk it away, and it's time for DHS to step up to the plate and release these absolutely vital federal dollars."
In 2007, Ovid Fire Department successfully applied for two grants under the 2007 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. The federal grants were intended to rectify these issues through the purchase of a used, ten year old Quint aerial truck, and muchneeded equipment including twelve sets of turnout gear, six air packs, and six portable radios. Once the fire department had been informed of the awards, the department placed orders for a portion of this equipment as per standard procedure in cases where such grants are awarded and announced. Soon after, however, the department received word that the two grant awards had been locked pending further review of whether or not such awards would be justified.
Ovid Fire Department is currently responding to emergencies using a 1950 aerial ladder truck which, in addition to the obvious issues associated with utilizing and maintaining such an old vehicle, has no pump or prepiped waterway. Whenever the aerial truck is needed to provide an elevated water stream, an additional engine and three to five extra firefighters must respond. Ovid's other engines are an average of 18years old. The department also lacks the uptodate protective gear it needs to adequately outfit all of its volunteers for emergency situations.
Today, in a personal letter to DHS Secretary Chertoff, Schumer urged the federal agency to immediately release these muchneeded funds, noting that the Town of Ovid and Seneca County's rural surroundings make uptodate equipment and vehicles especially important. "The requested vehicle and equipment are desperately needed to protect people and property in Seneca County, New York where the rural nature of the area presents specific challenges for emergency first responders," Schumer wrote.
Headquartered in the Town of Ovid, Ovid Fire Department is home to 45 active volunteers. The department protects a substantial area of the Finger Lakes region in Seneca County, serving the fire and rescue needs of the Towns of Romulus and Ovid. The fiftysquaremile primary coverage area includes barns, silos and other agricultural structures, the former Seneca Army Depot, multiple schools, two New York State Correctional facilities, and other three story structures, plus thousands of permanent residents as well as seasonal visitors and tourists who flock to the Finger Lakes Region each year.
Schumer helped create the original Grants to Firefighters Program, cosponsoring legislation in 2001 that led to its establishment. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program was established to provide funding to career and volunteer fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services providers to help with the rising costs of equipment, vehicles and training. However, soon after the program's establishment, Schumer played a central role in preventing the Bush Administration from eliminating funding for the program from the 2001 budget. Schumer also cosponsored the 2004 reauthorization, which set full funding levels for the program at $1 billion in FY 2007.
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