GEARHART - The fire department in Gearhart has received a $184,300 federal grant to buy a new fire truck.
Fire Chief Bill Eddy said the new truck will have four-wheel drive and travel into the beach dunes or marshes to assist in fighting wildland fires. It will carry between 800 and 1,000 gallons of water, which Eddy called a "decent water supply." Many brush trucks carry only 250 gallons, he said.
The truck will replace a 1952 truck the fire department originally purchased from the military and adapted for firefighting. "It's old and there's only about four or five people in the department that I let drive it, because it doesn't have any emergency brake," Eddy said. "There's not even seatbelts in this thing." He said the department refers to it as "the old war wagon."
The grant is from the Department of Homeland Security, which now handles all the Assistance to Firefighters grants. The grants fulfill the department's mission to prepare for terrorism by supporting the emergency preparedness and response community. Homeland Security also oversees the United States Fire Administration, which works to reduce life and economic losses due to fire and related emergencies.
Oregon received over $1 million in Assistance to Firefighters grants Aug. 26. Butte Falls, Jackson County, Cloverdale, Applegate, Boardman, Reedsport and Dexter all received grants.
Gearhart applies for several grants each year, always trying to show the money will get results. Eddy said small fire departments depend on grants to fill in the gaps from the tax revenue.
This is the second grant Gearhart has received this year, after not getting any in 2004. The department bought hoses, nozzles and protective clothing for fighting wildland fires with a state grant of about $9,600. Eddy said firefighters use lighter clothing for an outdoor fire, where there are not so many toxins, but the firefighters have to move around much more.
Eddy said the fire department has no other urgent needs, but he has a list of requirements he will work to fill as they become pressing. The year has been a very peaceful one so far for the entire county, he said. Gearhart had a marshland fire in March and several dune fires on or around the Fourth of July. However, there have been only a handful of house fires, all fairly minor. "You take a couple cups of water and you put it out," Eddy laughed.
Eddy plans to form a committee to decide exactly what the department wants, talk to vendors and get bids. "We're hoping to go out for bid in three months," he said. The grant money must be spent within a year.
Eddy said a custom-designed vehicle will work much better than an "off-the-shelf apparatus." Many vendors make trucks that supposedly drive through sand, but Gearhart needs one that can actually do it, he said.
Gearhart will have to provide matching funds for 10 percent of the grant. The money will come from proceeds of the Memorial Day fundraiser the firefighters have each year.