Two weeks ago, Chief Michael Vogt of the West Hempstead Fire Department had heard that his department was approved for a FEMA grant. “We knew we were approved for a grant, but we didn’t know how much or what it was for,” said Vogt. He soon found out, however, that the department would be receiving $228,572 to purchase much-needed self-contained breathing apparatus — known in the fire industry as SCBA. It is the largest grant ever received in the department’s history.
“We’re going to be purchasing about 40-45 paks,” Vogt, 33, said of the compressed air equipment, which will be secured to the trucks. “There will be seven paks per truck, and two on each ambulance. Each chief gets assigned a pak to the chief’s car,” he said.
Each pak provides 12-15 minutes of breathing time, Vogt said, depending on how much air an individual needs. If someone is able to control his or her breathing well, it could be longer. If more air is needed, the protocol is for the firefighter to leave the area, hydrate, and change the compressed air bottle.
As significant as the grant is, it will pay for only half the paks needed, Vogt said, adding that the department’s current SCBA equipment is from the late 1990s.
Vogt, a West Hempstead resident who joined the West Hempstead Fire Department in 2003, said there are other items on the department’s wish list as well. “We’re looking into possibly updating one of our heavy rescue trucks,” he said. “It is well over its expected years.”
Like many other volunteer organizations, the department is trying to recruit more members, but it’s a difficult task. “Trying to get people to volunteer their time and give up hours and hours away from their families and their lives is tough,” Vogt said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Firefighters risk their lives to help people they don’t even know. But it’s very rewarding in that sense — especially in situations where it could be a dire emergency.”
Anyone interested in joining the West Hempstead Fire Department should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the department at 516-486-8846.