New Bern Fire-Rescue is saving property and lives thanks to the Assistance to Firefighters grant provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The grant funds total $304,451 and have been used to update the department’s fleet of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) units. SCBAs are an essential part of personal protective equipment when responding to fires and hazardous materials situations. These air packs allow them to breathe without exposure to the harmful chemicals and carcinogens found in smoke.
Fire-rescue staff applied for the grant in December 2021 and learned in August 2022 that they had received it. In September, the department ordered and purchased 39 SCBAs. The units arrived in January 2023 and were assigned to all 3 fire-rescue stations earlier this month as part of emergency turnout gear for all staff. The SCBAs the department was using had become obsolete and could no longer be maintained or repaired for active service. Additionally, they no longer met current National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) standards for performance requirements.
“This grant provides a lifeline to our firefighters,” said Fire-Rescue Chief Robert “Bobby” Boyd. “With these new SCBAs, our firefighters can breathe clean air when they enter a burning building or a HAZMAT situation. They can focus on saving lives and property, without worrying about aging equipment.”
The department received another funding boost from Ward 3 Alderman Robert “Bobby” Aster. When Alderman Aster learned that the FEMA grant would only supply enough SCBAs for active units, he supplemented the fire department with enough money to buy additional air packs for all units. At the September 13, 2022, Board of Aldermen meeting, Alderman Aster made a motion to use $75,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to purchase additional SCBA units. The motion passed unanimously. New Bern Fire-Rescue was able to purchase 7 more air packs, for a total of 46. The department is now fully outfitted with SCBAs to respond to emergency calls for service.
By Colleen Roberts, public information officer