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OXFD secures $173K grant from feds



Jahlas
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Oxford Fire Capt. Ron Jahlas wrote a grant proposal that's earned the department $173,024 in federal monies to purchase 28 Self-contained Breathing Apparatus units. (click for larger version)
July 24, 2013 - Grant money just keeps rolling in to the Oxford Fire Department.

The department was recently awarded $173,024 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Oxford will add $19,224 in matching dollars to that award in order to purchase 28 brand new Self-contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) units for firefighters.

Each unit consists of a face piece, backpack/harness assembly and the air cylinder (also called a bottle). It's what each firefighter wears to prevent them from breathing in smoke and toxic fumes while battling flames and searching for victims.

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Fire Capt. Ron Jahlas, who wrote the successful grant proposal, said the current units are "outdated" and "failing quite regularly."

"They no longer meet the safety standards of (the National Fire Protection Association) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)," he said. "You can only keep a bottle for 15 years before they're considered obsolete and we had reached that maximum."

Back in 2010, the department received a $177,650 grant (excluding the local match of $9,350) from FEMA to replace 28 other SCBA units and purchase a new compressor station to fill them with filtered air.

In the last four years, the department has been awarded $694,169 in FEMA grants, which has saved local taxpayers "from having to foot the entire bill" for new equipment via their property taxes, according Jahlas.

Of that total, $56,839 was matching funds provided by the department.

"We've been very fortunate," he said.

Jahlas noted the department's match requirement for these federal grants increased from 5 to 10 percent because it's based on population and the 2010 U.S. Census showed Oxford now has more than 20,000 residents.

Jahlas indicated the department is looking to apply for another FEMA equipment grant later this year.

"We're kicking around several different ideas right now as to what that's going to be for," he said.

He's currently doing some research in the hopes of possibly obtaining a $10,000 grant from Firehouse Subs to replace some outdated fire hose.

Jahlas has been writing Oxford's fire grants ever since the department paid for him to take a grant writing class in 2009.

"I saw the benefit to not only the department, but the community," he said. "(Grant money is) out there and it's available, so why not take advantage of it?"

As a public servant, Jahlas believes he owes it to the taxpayers to be fiscally responsible and pursuing grants is one way to accomplish this. "It's only right that we go after any money that's being offered," he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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