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Van Buren, St. Agatha fire departments receive federal funding to buy equipment

ST. JOHN VALLEY, Maine — More than $45,000 in federal grants was awarded recently to two local fire departments for the purchase of thermal imaging cameras and other equipment.

The Van Buren Fire Department was awarded $20,505 to purchase the specialized camera that allows firefighters to detect hot spots inside walls, where fire can linger even after the main blaze has been extinguished. The device also is useful for finding unconscious people in a dark or smoke filled room.

According to St. Agatha Fire Chief Bobby Guerette, the device also is useful for seeing where propane leaks have settled.

“Propane is heavier than air, so it sinks,” Guerette said. “It’s also very cold, and that shows up on the camera.”

Guerette said his department’s current thermal camera is a large device that takes two hands to use and does not provide very good quality images compared to modern devices.

St. Agatha’s Fire Department was awarded $24,977 for the purchase of a new camera, 2,900 feet of large diameter fire hose and new handheld flashlights.

The funding was part of $1.5 million in Assistance to Firefighters Grant and Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response program funds approved for six fire departments around the state.

“Our firefighters throughout Maine face harrowing challenges every day performing their duties and protecting our families and communities,” said U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a press release announcing the St. Agatha grant.

In a separate joint statement announcing the Van Buren grant, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said, “The investments made through the AFG and SAFER programs provide critical support to fire departments and promote the health and safety of Maine’s communities.”

Other recent federal grants awarded to fire departments in Maine included $20,000 to the Eddington Fire Department for firefighter rehabilitation equipment, $261,905 to the Raymond Fire Department to purchase a pumper truck, $244,069 to the Bucksport Fire Department to hire two new firefighters, and $962,000 to the Westbrook Fire Department to hire eight new firefighters.

The AFG and SAFER programs are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The AFG program was created to help assist fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical service organizations with purchasing equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources to better protect the public and emergency personnel. The SAFER program provides funding to help increase and maintain the number of trained firefighters in local communities.

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