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LA Fire Department receives state grant

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Funding > Helps to replace some portable radios

By Arin McKenna

The New Mexico Fire Protection Grant Council has awarded the Los Alamos Fire Department a $79,913 State Fire Protection Grant. The award boosts LAFD more than halfway toward its goal of replacing outdated handheld communication devices.

The FPG is earmarked for critical needs of municipal and county fire districts with a goal of improving the district’s Insurance Services Office rating.

This is the first year LAFD competed for funding. Until 2011, when eligibility was extended to all New Mexico certified fire departments, only ISO Class 7, 8, 9 and 10 departments could apply for the award. LAFD has an ISO class 1 rating.

More than 100 grant applications were submitted with requests for more than $9 million in funding.

The grant requires a 20 percent match from the county, which totals $15,983. The match will come from LAFD’s FY13 budget. Council approved the match as part of the consent agenda during its meeting Jan. 29.

The $95,896 project fund will purchase 68 Harris PS400 portable radios with the required battery support equipment. LAFD began the replacement project by purchasing 18 of the radios with its FY2011-2012 budget.

This year’s purchase brings the department more than halfway toward its goal of replacing every portable radio.
The current equipment is nearly 10 years old. A staff report in the Jan. 29 agenda highlights the necessity of replacing the aging devices.

“As evidenced by the devastation of the Las Conchas Fire, it is a priority that the LAFD firefighters have the tools and equipment necessary to stand ready for disasters 24/7. Communication equipment that is up-to-date and capable of providing uninterrupted service at all times is paramount for the safety of the firefighters and the community.”

Deputy Fire Chief Justin Grider said the new devices have the latest technology and are expected to have a greater range.

“They’re also smaller, more compact, more firefighter friendly,” Grider said.

The staff report notes, “The $79,913 award of State funds has a very positive influence on the Los Alamos County budget. The award provides a direct reduction to the total amount of county funds needed to complete this LAFD radio replacement project.”

“It’s helpful because these are not a luxury, they’re a necessity,” Fire Chief Troy Hughes said. “We would have had to set aside tax money to pay for them without this grant. With this we were able to save significant local dollars.”

LAFD plans to apply for the grant again next year, which, if awarded, would allow the department to replace the remaining 60 to 70 older devices.