Seventeen volunteer fire departments in Pennington County will split nearly $1 million in grants from the federal government.
According to Pennington County Fire Administrator Jerome Harvey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is awarding an Assistance to Firefighter Grant totaling $915,458 to replace aging radios and pagers. Additionally, a $19,737.14 grant has been awarded to the Wall Volunteer Fire Department for an updated breathing-air-grade compressor.
“Fire equipment is expensive and communication equipment is no different," Harvey said. "This grant will help with the actual hardware volunteer firefighters use in the field to communicate, including the handheld radio and radios mounted in fire engines."
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The Rockerville Volunteer Fire Department, under the guidance of Chief Gail Schmidt, submitted a proposal to FEMA in October 2018 and recently received notification of the countywide communication award.
Schmidt said in the news release that local volunteer fire departments have functional radios, but many of those radios will soon be non-compliant when the state of South Dakota changes to a new communications system next year. Additionally, Schmidt said, 90 percent of the current portable and mobile radios in use have been defined as obsolete by the manufacturer and no longer receive support.
The Wall Volunteer Fire Department, under the guidance of Chief Jim Kitterman, submitted a proposal to FEMA for an updated breathing-air-grade compressor. The compressor is used to fill air bottles firefighters carry on their backs.
The volunteer fire departments that will benefit from the radio grant are Battle Creek Fire District, Black Hawk VFD, Box Elder VFD, Doty VFD, Hill City VFD, Interior VFD, Johnson Siding VFD, New Underwood Fire Protection District, North Haines VFD, Quinn VFD, Rochford VFD, Rockerville VFD, Scenic VFD, Silver City VFD, Wall VFD, Wasta VFD and Whispering Pines VFD.
Volunteer fire departments that will benefit from the compressor are Quinn VFD, Wall VFD and Wasta VFD.