Medford, Gordon Heights fire districts win equipment grant

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The Medford and Gordon Heights fire districts have teamed up to win a $476,000 federal grant to buy new breathing devices for firefighters.

Gordon Heights and Medford officials said the joint application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency was the first time the neighboring districts in central Brookhaven Town have worked together on a grant proposal.

The FEMA grant, announced Wednesday, will enable the districts to purchase about 82 sets of face masks and air tanks, said Kevin Mulrooney, president of JSK Inc., a consulting firm that helped fire department officials prepare the application. Medford has 110 volunteer firefighters; Gordon Heights has 60.

Medford Fire Commissioner Richard Coleman said the grant was "a great gift" that would enable the districts to buy equipment they otherwise could not afford.

"It's a feather in our cap," he said.

Gordon Heights Commissioner Alex Hanson said the districts' breathing equipment is obsolete due to new federal standards.

"The firefighters are going into the buildings with their [breathing] units, and this is their life," Hanson said. "That's their lifeline."

Hanson said Gordon Heights and Medford officials heeded the call of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other public officials, who have asked special districts to cooperate on joint purchases, in hopes of reducing costs borne by taxpayers. Gordon Heights residents pay some of the highest fire taxes on Long Island.

"These grants will help to offset the monies so we can try to avoid raising taxes," Hanson said. "Every little bit helps."Separately, Gordon Heights won a $82,000 FEMA grant for installation of a diesel exhaust system at the district's firehouse. The fire house does not have a system for dispersing exhaust from trucks, Hanson said.

"The vehicles are inside, and when you start them, . . . [exhaust fumes] go through the building, through the offices," Hanson said.

Studies have shown that diesel exhaust contains carcinogens that could harm people and cause fire equipment to break down, Mulrooney said.

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