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First responders receive state grants

Local first responders received a much-needed boost Tuesday with the help of state funding.

Twenty-three fire departments and emergency medical services in Cambria County received part of a $296,000 state grant, and local officials said the funding will alleviate ongoing financial concerns.

“These funds are really crucial,” Patton Fire Chief Pat Woods said. “This gives us the ability to buy new equipment or things we couldn’t afford otherwise.”

Grants awarded through the annual program can be used to fund facility construction or renovation, equipment, training along with recruitment and retention of members, according to state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Johnstown.

For the majority of area departments, the funds will help offset recurring debts that have put a financial strain on first responders.

The Ashville Fire Company received $15,000 and plans to use the funds for debt reduction for an apparatus loan, Ashville Fire Chief Joe Racz said.

The funds will offset a portion of the loan for a 2004 American LaFrance ladder truck, he said.

“For every dollar we receive, that’s $1 we don’t expect our volunteers to raise,” Racz said. “Our volunteers dedicate a lot of time raising funds when they only have so much time to give. These grants are really important, because then we can allocate more of our time to doing what we do best.”

The Patton Fire Company No. 1 also received $15,000, and it plans to use the state grant funds to reduce debt for the loan on its 2007 Sutphen ladder truck, Woods said.

Officials from the John Carroll and Portage Area Ambulance Associations said they also plan to utilize their funds to cut down payments on loans for recently purchased ambulances.

“By reducing the payments on our ambulance, it allows us to have extra funds to use elsewhere,” Portage Area Ambulance Association manager Terry Sloan said.

Other departments are looking to use the funds for equipment upgrades.

The Carrolltown Fire Engine Company received $11,876.73 and plans to use the funds to purchase three new sets of personal protective equipment for firefighters, according to Fire Chief Tim Burkhart.

Officials from the Cresson, Gallitzin, Lilly, Portage and Reade Township fire departments could not be reached for comment.

Mirror Staff Writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.

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